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Google Sued for Nixing Free Workspace Software to Early Adopters

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(Bloomberg) -- Alphabet Inc.’s Google was sued by an early adopter of its Workplace cloud productivity software who claims the company reneged on a promise to provide it with free access to the program for life.

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Google Workplace, formerly known as Google Apps and G Suite, provides a host of services including Gmail, Calendar, Drive for storage and Google Docs for content creation. Some of the programs are free to all, but enterprise features such as custom email addresses and shared Drive storage cost extra.

The Stratford Company LLC sued on behalf of all early adopters who were lured to use the software in its early stages, allowing Google to fine-tune it and then sell it for a fee. In exchange Stratford Company said the early adopters were promised a free version of Workspace as long as Google offered it.

In 2012, Google started charging new customers $12 a month to use the software. Then, in 2022, Google notified legacy users that they would also be charged, although it later excluded non-business users of the software.

“Google’s abandonment of the credo ‘don’t be evil’ is well-illustrated in this case,” Stratford Company said in the complaint, filed Friday in San Jose federal court. “Google, as the better part of a conglomerate worth nearly two trillion dollars, breaks a promise to loyal customers who helped Google develop a profitable product, in order to pad its already grossly outsized profits.”

Stratford company is seeking class-action status for all the early adopters and damages to be determined at trial, but more than $5 million.

Google didn’t immediately respond to an emailed request for comment, sent after regular business hours.

The case is The Stratford Company LLC v. Google LLC, 5:22-cv-4547, US District Court, Northern District of California (San Jose).

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