Google hit with lawsuit for dropping free Workspace apps

Free Forever, or Free Until We Decide It Isn't policy criticised in filing

A putative class action lawsuit has been filed against Google in California by early adopters who are unhappy about the ads company's decision to demand fees for its Workspace productivity suite.

At the $5 million suit's core is an allegation that Google promised early adopters of what would later become Google Workspace that they would get to use a free version of the service for as long as the search giant offered it.

Google Apps first arrived in 2006, was rebranded G Suite in 2016 and, in 2020, the rebrando-wand was waved once again to give customers the Google Workspace of today.

The complaint [PDF], filed on August 5 in a San Jose district court, alleges: "From 2006 until 2012, in order to convince potential users to leave well-developed suites of services offered by Google's competitors (eg, Microsoft Office), Google made a promise to early adopters of Google Workspace. Google promised that such users would always be provided a free version of Workspace (including at least the features that the service had when these customers signed up) as long as Google offered the Workspace service."

As far as Workspace is concerned, after being referred to as a legacy service, the freebie G-Suite apps were discontinued in favor of Workspace this year, although one could continue to use the tools for personal use.

Key to the complaint is an allegation that the workplace apps that first emerged in 2006 were refined with the assistance of feedback from those early adopters, resulting in something that was professional enough to actually charge for by 2012.

As well as castigating Google for dropping its "don't be evil" slogan ("Google's abandonment of the credo "don't be evil" is well-illustrated in this case," the lawyers claimed), the complaint reproduced statements from the search giant at the time, including:

"...organizations that sign up during the beta period will not ever have to pay for users accepted during that period (provided Google continues to offer the service)."

The Register asked Google for its reaction to the complaint, and we will update this piece should a response be forthcoming. ®

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