Google has announced that it will waive fees for transferring data to other cloud or on-premises providers if customers stop using its services. But there’s a big catch.

On January 12, Google announced that it would waive fees for transferring data to other cloud providers or on-premises if customers stopped using its cloud. This measure applies to customers worldwide from the same date.

This measure will make it easier to switch cloud providers by offering free data transfer fees. The company offers a free data transfer request form and a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) on its website.

On the other hand, GCP pointed to restrictive and unfair licensing practices as an underlying problem that prevented customers from using the providers they wanted. Without naming names, it criticized “certain incumbent suppliers” for using their dominant position in on-premise software to lock in customers with restrictive licenses and dominate the cloud computing market. Google is aiming this at Microsoft.

Combating barriers to interoperability

Transfer fees are one of cloud providers’ best-kept secrets. The company gave examples of restrictive licensing, including limiting the cloud providers it can collaborate with, charging around five times more to use certain competing providers, and limiting interoperability with other companies’ software that is essential for using cloud services.

“The company will continue its efforts to end restrictive licensing practices that prevent customers from freely choosing and competing in the cloud computing market,” Google assures.

By announcing the end of fees for migrating to another cloud provider, Google Cloud is giving a pledge to the European competition authorities. But also a signal to competitors to do the same.

The number of investigations in Europe has multiplied in recent months. Last July, Ofcom in the UK asked the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to investigate anti-competitive practices in the cloud. The interim report indicates that current cloud customers in the UK are paying more than they should for their cloud infrastructure or having to make do with poor quality services, and that the regulator has heard concerns from some customers about their inability to switch providers or use multiple providers. In October, the UK Competition and Markets Authority launched an antitrust investigation into Microsoft and Amazon cloud services. In November, Google Cloud also sent a letter to the CMA accusing Microsoft of anti-competitive practices in its cloud service offerings, followed in December by a letter from AWS, which also accused Microsoft.

But there’s a big catch.

Any company wishing to benefit from the data transfer fee waiver must terminate its relationship with Google Cloud and all its services. Secondly, the waiver will apply as long as the customer transfers all its data out of Google Cloud “within 60 days of approval of eligibility” and termination of its contract. In addition, each entity will be required to submit a fee waiver request, which will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis by the Google Cloud team.

The FAQ also mentions that only data stored as part of the BigQuery, Cloud Bigtable, Cloud SQL, Cloud Storage, Datastore, Filestore, Spanner and Persistent Disk services, are eligible for the free transfer.

In other words, the absence of exit fees applies only under certain conditions, to specific products and at Google’s discretion.