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Google Play in Belarus: Expensive and in English

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Vladimir Yakush, a journalist and TV/Radio independent expert, wrote an interesting article about the Google Play Market’s operation in Belarus. When using this service, Belarusian users have to face a lot of difficulties and experience a lot of inconveniences. With consent of the author, the Mediasat publishes this article for its audience in the Blogs.

For a long time, the Belarusian Play Market consisted just of two sections: “Applications” and “Games”. The situation changed in June 2014, when the IT giant made another section “Movies” available to our country. All fine and dandy, but it was immediately noted the lack of movies in Russian. Many people explained it by the fact that Google was in a hurry with launching that section, so it did not have much time to open the rights to Belarus, and they believed that situation would change in a short time.

Two years passed, but the movies remained in English as they initially were. Moreover, even subtitles were offered for some reason in different, sometimes exotic languages like Spanish, Turkish, Chinese, and Thai. But not in Russian! I do not even inquire about the Belarusian language. Where would it come from? Maybe Google mistook Belarus for Mexico or Cuba? But why then are the prices indicated in Belarusian rubles?

By the way, the price is another story. After the denomination of 1 July 2016, Google did not bother to “scratch out” four extra zeros in the price for movies. And the prices are still calculated in the hundreds of thousands of rubles. At that, the actual official rate is about 2 new rubles (BYN) for one US dollar. Yes, sure, the Belarusians came out of “millionaires”! Even more comic situation develops when a movie lease is more expensive than buying that movie. I can not even imagine the guidelines for the company’s accounting department!

In early November of the same year, there appeared “Play Music” in Belarus, a music service by Google. Music seems easier, clearer and does not require any translation, since music is just music. And this service could be really demanded in Belarus, given a huge music library and good quality. Not movies, but music is most often listened to by users on their way and at home using smartphones. But even here Google managed giving an unpleasant “surprise” due to fixing all prices in US dollars. And if at the time of launching that service the price in terms of Belarusian rubles was quite reasonable, then a couple of years later, the inflation did its job, and prices in rubles doubled!

When in 2014, the fee of USD 4.99 for a monthly subscription to the music library seemed adequate (BYN 5), so in 2017, it turned out BYN 10, i.e twice as high. In most cases, it is worth adding bank charges for converting rubles into dollars when paying with a ruble card. For reference: in Russia the monthly subscription fee to “Music” costs RUB 169 (less than USD 2.8), in Ukraine – UAH 59 (less than USD 2.3). The price for buying some music items or albums is also on average twice as high than in Russia or Ukraine. The similar services of the main Belarusian competitors look much more attractive. For example, “MTS Music” costs BYN 6.60 per month, and “Zvooq” by velcom costs BYN 5.40 per month.

On 20 November 2014, Belarus got available the “Books” section. The content of the library did not prompt any questions and complaints, but the price was indicated in US dollars again, as in the “Music” section. And after the devaluation it increased significantly again in Belarusian rubles. Buying e-books in the Play Market resulted expensive and unprofitable. Cheaper it is to buy them from competitors (for example from LitRes), or even a real paper book. In the Ukrainian and Russian “Play Market”, the price for similar books is on average twice as low than in the Belarusian version, as the prices in local currency have not been raised since 2014 there.

In November 2016, your humble servant appealed to Google with a request to make clear the facts that the Belarusian Play Market offers practically no movies with Russian translation, the prices in Belarusian rubles are still in “thousands”, and some prices are indicated in dollars at all. My phone request was answered in writing:

Thank you for contacting Google Support. My name is Tatiana, and I was very pleased to talk to you on the phone before. I passed your feedback about movies to our professionals and they asked for more information. In your reply to this letter, please send us screenshots and movie titles with sound tracks in English. You are also welcome to specify whether you have installed VPN, Proxy or other software that affects the location of devices and the name of the devices you tried to view movies on.

I felt happy to give all the details, attaching relevant screenshots and sitting down to wait. Three months passed without any changes. Of course, one may refer to the fact that Belarus is not a priority country for Google. Our market is not great at all, and users willing to pay for legal content are even less. But if the company still decided to enter this market, it would be reasonable to tune its services up and get at least some profit than not to getting anything.

I am really looking forward to Google’s reading this article and paying attention to the situation!