Google Apologizes to Video Customers

ByJames Niccolai

— -- Google Inc. has apologized for the way it shut down its video sales and rental service last week, leaving people unable to play videos they had paid for, and said it will refund their credit cards and allow them to watch their films for another six months.

Google told customers two weeks ago that it would be ending its Google Video download-to-own and download-to-rent program on Aug. 15. The company said it was looking at ways to offer new advertising-supported services instead.

The change meant that people could no longer play the videos that they had paid to watch. Google started refunding customers with credits for Google Checkout, but some people saw the offer as "annoyingly self-serving," the company admitted in a blog posting Monday evening.

"When your friends and well-intentioned acquaintances tell you that you've made a mistake, it's good to listen. So we'd like to say thank you to everyone who wrote to let us know that we had made a mistake in the case of Google Video's Download to Own/Rent Refund Policy vs. Common Sense," the company wrote.

It's now offering credit card refunds to "everyone who ever bought a video" from Google Video, and people who already received Google Checkout refunds will be able to keep them as well. It will also allow people who bought or rented videos to keep playing them for another six months.

"We won't be offering the ability to buy additional videos, but what you've already downloaded will remain playable on your computer," the company said.

Google opted for the Checkout refunds because the company thought it would entail fewer steps and offer "a better user experience," it said. People who want the credit card refunds will need to fill out an online form to make sure Google has their current credit card details.

The search company has been testing new services and updating old ones at a rapid pace, but it acknowledged Monday that moving quickly can sometimes leave users paying a price.

"We take pride in moving quickly, and we think this philosophy helps to create lots of new and innovative products. But it also leads to errors that -- upon reflection and your feedback -- we need to rectify," the company said.

Google 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.

Google Video is still available for searching and playing videos, just the purchase and rental program has ended. Microsoft Corp., Yahoo Inc. and AOL have similar video Web sites.

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