Google has halted businesses from using RCS for promotion in India, the company's biggest market by users, following reports of rampant spam by some firms in a setback for the standard that the company is hoping to help become the future of SMS messaging.
Rich Communication Services, or RCS, is the collective effort of a number of industry players to supercharge the traditional SMS with modern features such as richer texts and end-to-end encryption.
Google, Samsung and a number of other firms, including telecom operators, have rolled out support for RCS to hundreds of millions of users worldwide in recent years. Google said last month that RCS messaging in the Messages app for Android had amassed more than 500 million monthly active users.
At its developer conference last month, the company also urged "every mobile operating system" (in a subtle jab at Apple) to support RCS, which is also aimed at helping businesses reach users in a more interactive way.
The problem, however, is that scores of businesses in India, including top banks and other lending firms, have been abusing the feature to send unsolicited promotional materials to any individual's phone number they can find in the country.
Google Messages is becoming the worst possible Google app.
The amount of ads its sending is crazy, multiple every day. Yes, these are NOT messages, these are ads being pushed by the app to 🇮🇳 Indian users.
It's the default messaging app on most Android phones here. 😑 pic.twitter.com/8EYnIh5cd9
— Ishan Agarwal (@ishanagarwal24) May 16, 2022
Several users began complaining about it on Twitter last month and it looks like their messages have reached Google.
In a statement, Google acknowledged "some businesses are abusing our anti-spam policies to send promotional messages to users in India." As a result of that, Google said it is disabling the feature as it "works with the industry to improve the experience for users."