Google Messages users in India have reported receiving a deluge of unwanted ads in recent weeks using Rich Communication Services (RCS), and Google has employed a response strategy: turn them all off. Company spokesperson Kaori Miyake confirmed to The Verge that Google has disabled the feature in India: “We are aware that some businesses are abusing our anti-spam policies to send promotional messages to users in India. We are disabling this feature in India while we work with the industry to improve the experience for users.”
The ads in question were delivered by way of RCS’ business messaging feature, which allows verified businesses to send messages to customers that go beyond a typical text, with images and interactive features. Google pitches it as a way for brands to communicate with established customers — messages you might actually want on your phone. But people using RCS in India have experienced it quite differently. They’ve seen frequent messages coming in from businesses pushing credit cards and gambling apps, among other things.
Until now, people reported that the only way to avoid the onslaught of ads was to turn off RCS altogether — not an ideal experience. Google’s move to turn off business messaging is a better alternative in the short term, but it’s clearly not a long-term fix. In 2019, Android Messages product management director Sanaz Ahari told us that the company’s vision for RCS was “a great, simple user experience that just works for every Android user.” RCS has come a long way since then, but there’s obviously still some work to do.
Update June 1st, 4:00PM ET: Updated to include a statement from Google.