Sunday, 2 November 2014

Google removes my app from playstore.

My free app for Scrabble players, which had about 35,000 downloads was recently removed from the Google play store. Initially, Google sent me the following warning email :
This is a notification that your application, Scrabble Game, with package ID com.dhruvg.apps.bingledemo, is currently in violation of our developer terms.
REASON FOR WARNING: Violation of the spam provisions of the Content Policy. Please refer to the spam policy help article for more information.
  • Your title and/or description attempts to impersonate or leverage another popular product without permission. Please remove all such references. Do not use irrelevant, misleading, or excessive keywords in apps descriptions, titles, or metadata.
Please refer to the keyword spam policy help article for more information.
Your application will be removed if you do not make modifications to your application’s description to bring it into compliance within 7 days of the issuance of this notification. If you have additional applications in your catalog, please also review them for compliance. Note that any remaining applications found to be in violation will be removed from the Google Play Store.
Please also consult the Policy and Best Practices and the Developer Distribution Agreement as you bring your applications into compliance. You can also review this Google Play Help Center article for more information on this warning.
All violations are tracked. Serious or repeated violations of any nature will result in the termination of your developer account, and investigation and possible termination of related Google accounts.
I asked them for an explanation of the violating keywords. I had an idea that this might be the "Scrabble" keyword. However, my app is built only for tournament level Scrabble players. It is very specialized, and removing that keyword would probably result in very few downloads. Regardless, I removed all but one reference to the "Scrabble" keyword. However, this wasn't enough :
This is a notification that your application, Scrabble Bingo Game, with package ID com.dhruvg.apps.bingledemo, has been removed from the Google Play Store.
REASON FOR REMOVAL: Violation of the spam provisions of the Content Policy. Please refer to the keyword spam policy help article for more information.
  • Your title and/or description attempts to impersonate or leverage another popular product without permission. Please remove all such references. Do not use irrelevant, misleading, or excessive keywords in apps descriptions, titles, or metadata.
This particular app has been disabled as a policy strike. If your developer account is still in good standing, you may revise and upload a policy compliant version of this application as a new package name.
This notification also serves as notice for remaining, unsuspended violations in your catalog, and you may avoid further app suspensions by immediately unpublishing any apps in violation of (but not limited to) the above policy. Once you have resolved any existing violations, you may republish the app(s) at will. Before publishing applications, please ensure your apps’ compliance with the Developer Distribution Agreement and Content Policy.
All violations are tracked. Serious or repeated violations of any nature will result in the termination of your developer account, and investigation and possible termination of related Google accounts. If your account is terminated, payments will cease and Google may recover the proceeds of any past sales and the cost of any associated fees (such as chargebacks and payment transaction fees) from you.
If you feel we have made this determination in error, you can visit the Google Play Help Center article for additional information regarding this removal.
My appeal :
My app has been in the store for 2 years now, and I have so far complied
with all requirements. It is a free app (I earn no money from adds) and the
app was built by me alone. I only made it to help competitive
tournament-level Scrabble players improve their game. The app is innately
tied to the game of Scrabble, hence the "Scrabble" keyword is necessary to
promote the game, because it is only directed at improving a players
Scrabble vocabulary via 7-word scores.
I implore you to reconsider reinstating my app on the play store. At least
advise me on the specific keyword violation so I can remove it. I have no
intention of spamming users. My game is only built for Scrabble players, so
how can I remove the Scrabble keyword from the game title? I would
be grateful for any help and guidance and am willing to cooperate fully.
And the automated response :
Hi,
We have reviewed your appeal and will not be reinstating your app. This decision is final and we will not be responding to any additional emails regarding this removal.
If your account is still in good standing and the nature of your app allows for republishing you may consider releasing a new, policy compliant version of your app to Google Play under a new package name. We are unable to comment further on the specific policy basis for this removal or provide guidance on bringing future versions of your app into policy compliance. Instead, please reference the REASON FOR REMOVAL in the initial notification email from Google Play.
Please note that additional violations may result in a suspension of your Google Play Developer account.

Lessons learnt :
- Google has terrible customer service. There is no way for me to talk to a human being about my problem.
- All information about downloads, ratings, etc is lost and apparently, this decision is irreversible. I will avoid developing apps for Android (though I highly doubt iOS is any any better in these types of situations).
- This is my last blog post on Google's blogger platform. I think it's time for me to avoid relying on just a single platform/provider/company. Mostly because of this line -
"Serious or repeated violations of any nature will result in the termination of your developer account, and investigation and possible termination of related Google accounts."
- All future blog posts will be hosted on Github pages instead.

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