Hundreds of Google accounts were suspended last week after the company caught on to a scheme that violated its Terms of Service. For many users, this meant they no longer had access to important documents being stored by Google.
The scheme started when a phone dealer in New Hampshire started offering a deal: purchase a phone through Project Fi or the Google Store, have it shipped to a certain New Hampshire address, and you’ll get reimbursed for the cost of the device plus a little extra. The phone dealer would then resell the phones at a markup, raking in huge profits. Only catch, it is in violation of Google’s Terms of Service to purchase the Pixel for commercial resale.
When Google learned about the scheme, they were quick to suspend every account that ordered the device and had it shipped to the New Hampshire address. The users of the suspended accounts no longer had access to any of the Google services including Gmail, Photos, Drive and Play. Users who have accounts on other websites that are authenticated with their Google account are no longer able to log into those accounts either. Shmuel Super from Brooklyn, NY had his account suspended after trying to make some quick money. Super told the Associated Press that not having access to his Google account is “like a digital death sentence.”
The Google Terms of Service reads, “We may suspend or stop providing our services to you if you do not comply with our terms or policies or if we are investigating suspected misconduct.” This does not require the company to warn the account owner that they have violated the terms. Apple also prohibits the purchase of iPhones for resale, however, its Terms of Service only states they reserve the right to cancel any order the company suspects of violating the terms.
As of Friday morning, Google started restoring accounts of those who appealed the suspension. In a statement, Google said:
“We identified a scheme in which consumers were asked to purchase Pixel devices on behalf of a reseller, who then marked-up the cost of those devices in order to resell them to other customers. We prohibit the commercial resale of devices purchased through Project Fi or the Google Store so everyone has an equal opportunity to purchase devices at a fair price. Many of the accounts suspended were created for the sole purpose of this scheme, but since some customers were not aware of these Terms of Sale and are now locked out of many Google services they rely on, we’re restoring access to these customers’ accounts.”
In the event anything does happen to a user’s account, it is a good idea to download all the data associated with your Google account via Google Takeout.