Developers complain Android Market payments aren’t matching app sales

by Phil Hornshaw

As if Google weren’t dealing with enough this morning, what with the Federal Trade Commission probe about its Android business practices and alleged search manipulation, it seems some developers in the Android Market are complaining that Google is underpaying them.

According to a story from TechCrunch, some developers are complaining in Google’s Android Market forums that the sales of their apps aren’t matching the payments they’re receiving from Google. It’s not all developers, it seems, but only a handful claiming to be receiving light payments. However, the difference in how many apps are selling in the Android Market and how many sales these developers are getting paid for seems to be pretty large.

The problem first seemed to crop up on July 26, when one developer posted that his payment from the Android Market tallied fewer than half the apps that had actually been sold during the period the payout was supposed to cover. And soon other developers were replying to the thread, explaining that they were experiencing the same problem.

What's really happening?

Unlike whatever the FTC is attempting to uncover in its probe, however, the developer payment issue seems a lot less nefarious. After a little computer detective work, it seems the devs figured out that there was a common thread in all their situations: the Android Market web store. That’s the website-based version of Android that users can access in computer browsers (where they can purchase apps that are pushed to their devices automatically), not the same portal of the Market that’s accessed through an Android device when you open up the Market app. It seemed that purchases made on the web store, at least for some developers, were getting lost in the ether somewhere.

Despite what was likely a big problem for some developers, Google took a while in replying to the thread and figuring out what was going on. After about nine days, TechCrunch reports, Google posted this response:

Thanks for posting and for your patience. We’re aware of the issue, and we’re working on fixing it. Once the fix goes out (soon!), orders should be moved to the correct state, which will enable disbursement amounts to be recovered. So if your July activity payouts were underpaid, you will be notified, and your September 1 payout will contain the missing amounts.

Tough break for developers who were hoping for a check with the money they were owed immediately, but at least it seems Google is working on getting the oversight corrected and its developers paid (eventually). TechCrunch says Google doesn’t have a timeline as to when the fix of the web store bug will actually be completed and implemented, but it has been contacting developers affected to let them know that Google is on their cases and the checks are in the mail, so to speak.

Meanwhile, developers who haven’t heard about the short payments and are baffled by the checks they got from Google recently should contact Google’s official support lines and make their cases known. It seems Google’s working to make sure that everybody gets what’s owed them, but as the bug itself demonstrates, sometimes things can be overlooked. It never hurts to let a big company know when it has a problem so it can be addressed.