Google completely terminated our new business via our Google Play Developer Account

By Mark Dodson

A plea to all android app developers and small start-up tech business owners to come together and force Google to change their automatic termination policies

Our start-up idea

18 months ago, my wife and I came up with idea for an app. We carried out extensive research to find a company who could help us to create our vision. We used Upwork and found a company who had extensive experience in the area of development we required. Their reviews were great and the developers we spoke to were eager to create our app.

To cut a long story short — after many months of collaborative work between ourselves and our app developers and many mistakes along the way, we were ready to launch our app. Behind the scenes we had also been busy creating our brand, social media pages, promotional videos, adverts and getting ready to onboard businesses and customers. We’d invested every penny of our entire £25,000 into the development of the app.

After a few late disasters with our dedicated server and validation process within the app, we were finally ready to launch in January 2019. Then, to our dismay we realised our app had been removed from the Play Store. Our first thought was that there was another problem with our server connecting to the app. We then had a look on the App Store and saw that the iOS version of our app was listed with no problems whatsoever. We were confused as to why the app was listed on the App Store and not the Play Store.

I then attempted to login to my ‘Google Developer Account’ for the first time. Previous to this our app developers were the only ones to access our account to upload and update our app for us. Each time I tried to login to my account I was sent to a blank page with ‘403’ error message. I couldn’t understand what had gone wrong. I contacted the app developers who attempted to login and they also received the same error message. I then contacted the Play Console Help team via their online chat function.

According to Google’s records, my account had been terminated and I had been informed of this via email on 23rd January 2019. I was confused as I had not received an email but I was still confident the situation would be resolved quickly. I checked my junk folder and found I had been sent an email to let me know my account had been terminated. The email had a link for me to be able to appeal the decision and within 4 hours of completing the form I received the following response:

Google’s automatic rejection of appeal to reinstate Google Play Developer Account

I couldn’t believe what I was reading — effectively my accounted had been terminated because of an ‘associated’ account. I had created a Google Developer Account simply so I could pass on the login details to my app developers who uploaded and updated the app via my account each time. Therefore, the developers, one of their employees or one of their ‘associated’ accounts had previously been banned and therefore by mere ‘association’ my developer account had also been terminated, causing our app to be removed from the Play Store and effectively ruining our whole start-up business.

I sent an email back to Google Support explaining there must have been a mistake unless my account was fraudulently used without my knowledge. I asked for a contact that I could speak to so that we could resolve the situation.

My request for a contact was completely ignored and on 30th January 2019 I received the following email:

Google’s response to requesting human support

It was at this stage that I became very concerned. Our app and therefore our whole business was useless without cross-platform functionality and there appeared to be no way of contacting Google to get the issue resolved. I contacted @GooglePlayDev via Twitter and received the following response when requesting contact details of somebody that could look into our case:

Google’s Twitter Developer Support

I then searched on forums for help and there were countless developers who had posted about similar situations they had been in and none of them were able to get their situation resolved. I quickly started to lose all hope when I came across an open letter from an app developer who had managed to get his rejected appeal overturned and his developer account and apps reinstated: 
https://android.jlelse.eu/google-just-terminated-our-start-up-google-play-publisher-account-onchristmas-day-5cb69a454da0

The developer had managed to get his story to go viral and attract the attention of some of the ‘developer relationship managers’ within Google’s Play team. Therefore, my only option left was to get in contact with these employees to see if they would look into our case. I connected with as many ‘developer relationship managers’ as possible including Adriana Puchianu, Aleksandra Ben Har, Thierry Muller, Mark Masterson, Paul Kinlan, Kubra Zengin, Jaime Gonzalez and Nicolas Bortolotti. I also attempted to message Purnima Kochikar, the Director of Google Play, Apps & Games at Google.

As of 6th February 2019, I have received no further responses to my emails to Google Play Developer Support or twitter messages to @GooglePlayDev Only one of the developer relationship managers on LinkedIn has been good enough to message me back but even he has no ability to overwrite the automatic termination process.

I am in utter shock at the lack of customer support from Google. Both Apple and Amazon have app developer customer service departments that deal specifically with issues like this. I have no idea how Google can terminate accounts without fully checking the reasons behind the termination.

To put into perspective the situation we are in, imagine one of your neighbours commits a crime and is arrested by the police. You don’t know which neighbour has committed the crime but you are linked to each other by the street you live on and therefore you are ‘associated’ to that neighbour. As a result, you are also arrested for the crime and you are guilty by default! There is no unbiased court case or appeals procedure because the decision is final and you cannot find anybody to contact to get your case re-heard! That is exactly how we feel! Our account has been terminated because of an 
‘association’ that we don’t know and our whole business is ruined as a result. Even more worrying is that anyone who this ‘associate’ develops apps for in the future will also have their apps removed and accounts terminated.

The fact that our app is still listed on the App Store (https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/hoopapployalty/id1287914039?mt=8) with no issues whatsoever demonstrates that we have done nothing wrong and that our account and app should be reinstated to the Play Store.

Our absolute last hope is for the good people reading this letter to like, share and comment on this story in the hope that the Google team will do the right thing and reinstate our app and developer account.

Thank you in advance for your support