Google apologizes for hasty shutdown of video sales

Focuses attention on YouTube, ad-supported model

Google has admitted it "goofed" when it hastily shut down its video sales and rental service last week, leaving users unable to play videos they had already bought. To make amends, the search engine company said it will provide credit card refunds and let them watch their videos for six more months.

After shutting down the download-to-own/download-to-rent (DTO/DTR) portion of Google videos and announcing its refund policy, the company was bombarded with messages from users angry with the way the company handled the situation.

Customers were unhappy that Google decided to offer credits to the checkout accounts of users who made purchases on Google Video or DTO/DTR before July 18, while refunding the credit cards of users who made purchases after that date.

"When your friends and well-intentioned acquaintances tell you that you've made a mistake, it's good to listen," said Google video product manager Bindu Reddy in the company's blog.

Reddy said Google decided to offer the refunds in the form of Google Checkout credits because the company wasn't sure it had users' correct addresses and latest credit card information, and it wanted to make it as easy as possible for users to receive the credits.

"We should have anticipated that some users would see a checkout credit as nothing more than an extra step of a different (and annoyingly self-serving) kind. Our bad," Reddy said.

To make amends, Reddy said Google is giving a full credit card refund to everyone who ever bought a video, while allowing them to keep the Google Checkout credits they've already received. They will also be able to play the videos they've already downloaded to their computers for another six months.

"Think of it as an additional 'We're sorry we goofed' credit," Reddy said.

Reddy said Google's philosophy of moving quickly helps the company create innovative products, but it also leads to errors that the company has to rectify.

"We make mistakes; we do our best not to repeat them -- and we really do try to fix the ones we make," Reddy said. "That said, the very least that our users should expect from us is that our mistakes be new and innovative, too."

Google also faced criticism this week over another service it bought recently from GrandCentral, which promised to provide people with "a single phone number for life." Google confirmed Monday that it had to change the phone numbers for about 400 customers because a local carrier partner dropped out.

Information from the IDG News Service was included in this report.

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Linda Rosencrance

Computerworld
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