Over 200 people have reported that their Google accounts have been suspended, for allegedly violating the company’s terms of service by reselling their Pixel phones. These people have lost access to Gmail, Drive, Photos, and all other Google services. Additionally, users lost access to any accounts listed as a backup for the profile that violated the service, and may also be locked out of other online accounts that require email authentication. Emails sent to their accounts are being bounced back as undeliverable, meaning that even if the accounts are unlocked they will not know what emails they missed.
All affected individuals had bought the smartphone through Google’s Project Fi carrier service and shipped it to a reseller in New Hampshire, which has no state sales tax. The reseller and original buyer then allegedly split the profits from the tax-savings. According to money-saving website Dan’s Deals, the reseller claims that they have been selling Google Devices in this manner since 2010 without any issues. The dealer also stated that it is willing to return all phones to Google if it will rectify the situation by restoring the accounts.
Google’s terms of service state:
“You may only purchase Devices for your personal use. You may not commercially resell any Device, but you may give the Device as a gift.”
However, the terms do not specify the consequences for violating this condition. Though these consumers clearly did violate the terms of service, Google’s response of banning access to accounts that contain data essential to people’s daily lives could be perceived as an extreme punishment, for what amounted to a few dollars in tax savings.
Following a number of complaints about the bans, Google decided to reverse its decision. The company has not released a timeline, but issued the following statement:
“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.”
Updated November 18, 2016.