Exactly one month ago I wrote about a new app I had developed for Android called Credit Redeemer. Thanks to Google and my naivete this simple one week project has dealt a crushing blow to my indie game development career.
The idea for Credit Redeemer was simple; allow users to convert unused Google Play credit into paypal payments.
I thought as there were 3 other competitors on the market that did the same thing; Rebatr, Payback and Cashify then Credit Redeemer would be fine. I was a little worried about the terms of service but I assumed as they had been on there for years already then must be fine.
3 days after launch I received this email from Google:
Needless to say I was shocked, worried, upset and annoyed. Not only was Credit Redeemer taken down but my entire Google Play Developer account terminated including Mr Nibbles, Mr Nibbles Forever and Ectoplasm.
I of course immediately appealed stating that I wasn't aware of any previous violations and asking for more information. Surely it must be some sort of mistake? 3 days later I get the following:
Wow okay so now I am really worried. It seems like it's a robotic reply, even if "Bruce" is a real person he certainly hasn't read what I said in the appeal and hasn't offered any more information or reason for the lack of extra information.
At this point I decided to dig back through my inbox looking for previous mentions to Google Play and violation. The only thing I could find was from 2 years ago when I received what I believed to be warnings regarding an OpenSSL vulnerability in the AirSDK.
I didnt action on the error as it was for Ectoplasm, a hackathon project, plus I was travelling at the time, I assumed that it would just be automatically disabled. This was a big mistake I really should have paid attention to it as this counts as a strike against your developer account.
I emailed "Bruce" back again and received:
So thats that as far as Google is concerned. They offer no other way to appeal or state your case.
I decided not to give up just yet. I contacted a couple of friends I knew who worked at Google. One said they couldn't get any more info other than the public appeals page and other did get a little further and received the following:
Wow, so finally I can confirm that it was indeed Credit Redeemer that was a cause of the ban. Money laundering does indeed sound serious but I wasn't aware that the app was money laundering else I wouldn't have even started it.
I know ignorance is no defence when it comes to the law but I assumed that as there were other apps on the store that did the same thing and had been there for years precedent had been set and is still being set as Rebatr is still on the store.
It seems really seems unfair that I got a total account ban without a warning, I think my reply sums it up:
It has been almost 2 weeks, I have had no reply.
I have tried contacting some people from the Google Developer Relations department on LinkedIn (yes I have resorted to spamming LI) but they just give me the party line "use the public appeals process" before they stop replying.
Short of walking into the Google Office (someone else in the same situation tried this already and got turned around by security) then I don't know what to do.
So I think thats it. By Google's rules:
Do not attempt to register a new developer account. Any new accounts will be closed and your developer registration fee will not be refunded.
So I may never attempt to re-upload any of my other games and I may never again upload anything to the Google Play store.
Thing is, this doesn't just stop my ability to make games for the Google Play store it probably stops me from ever making a mobile game ever again. Why would I start working on a mobile game when I know that even if it's a success on iOS I can never port it over to Google Play?
So if you have any suggestions on other avenues to take or people to contact then please do contact me: email@example.com.