Google has relented after banning hundreds of people from accessing their Google accounts because they purchased Pixel smartphones from Google's online store and then resold them to a company in New Hampshire for a profit.
The issue was first highlighted on US money-saving site DansDeals.com on 16 November after the forum received complaints from over 20 users saying that their accounts were suspended by Google.
The one thing all the users had in common was that they had agreed to help a smartphone reseller located in New Hampshire gain access to Pixel smartphones by purchasing them from Google's online store at the full retail price and then requesting that Google ship the devices to the dealer. Some users bought one phone, while others bought a maximum of five devices using their accounts.
Since there is no sales tax in the state of New Hampshire, the dealer would then split the savings made from not paying sales tax with the users that agreed to help. According to Dansdeals.com, the dealer had ordered thousands of smartphones from Google in this manner over the years, going right back to the first Nexus phone, and there was never a problem.
Unfortunately, it turns out that this practice actually does violate Google's terms and conditions, because the products sold on the online store are actually only meant to be bought for personal use or to be given as a gift, and cannot be commercially resold.
Due to this, Google ended up banning over 200 users in bulk from accessing their accounts, meaning that they no longer have access to their email, photos, documents or any other services linked to their Google accounts, and the internet giant also cancelled about 500 orders that listed the delivery address of the dealer as New Hampshire.
Many of these users complained on the DansDeals forum that they had been unaware they were violating Google's terms of service, adding that they were petitioning Google to at least let them have access to their data, which was now stuck in an account they could no longer access.
IBTimes UK contacted Google to ask whether it would consider unbanning the users, and a spokesperson told us: "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."
DansDeals.com has confirmed that its users have now had their accounts reactivated. This is good, but the important message to learn from this situation is that users must respect Google's terms and conditions, even if they don't agree with them, otherwise they risk losing access to all the valuable data they have stored in Google's many digital services.