I've read about those unexpected app suspensions—and then it happened to me

I publish TransitDB on the Play Store, Amazon App Store, and BlackBerry App World. This evening, TransitDB was unexpectedly suspended from the Play Store. The following story all happened within a span of about 3 hours.

I submitted an update to the Play Store. Just some transit schedule changes. Went to private alpha, and then to 10% staged rollout. At that point, it was rejected for violating the Payments Policy.

Policy Issue: Payments

Alternative payment mechanisms to Google Play’s in-app billing service are only permitted if the products purchased are to be used outside of the app. For example:

  • For physical goods or services, such as movie tickets, or a publication where the price also includes a hard copy subscription; or
  • For digital goods that may be downloaded to devices and used outside of the app, such as songs that can be played on other music players.

Donations to 527 designated tax exempt organizations are also permitted.

This sounded like it took issue with me offering in-app donation options via Patreon and PayPal in addition to Google IAP. I had those alternate options ever since I added donation options into the app about a year ago, and it had survived many app updates without comment until this point. In any case, I added a check to hide those options when it detects the presence of com.android.vending, and submitted that as a new update.

I go through the private alpha and 10% staged rollout process again. This time, the app was suspended for violating the Alternative Stores provision:

4.5 Alternative Stores. You may not use the Store to distribute or make available any Product which has a purpose that facilitates the distribution of software applications and games for use on Android devices outside of the Store.

Needless to say, this was a fairly shocking and serious allegation, and certainly some kind of false positive. Everything the app does is totally above-board, and I can’t imagine what could have tripped this flag. I do make an effort to not do anything shady or contrary to the policies.

I’ve submitted an appeal. Appeal decisions are final, so I hope I haven’t screwed up my case. Their confirmation email says that they could take up the 72 hours to respond. It’s frustrating.

Written on November 27, 2016