Greedy Google

Google's charging small businesses for email after decades of free service

And Google isn't even making it very easy for business owners to make the switch to the new subscription model.


After many years of offering free services to individuals and businesses, Google has begun charging subscription prices for some of its most popular features. Small businesses that utilize the G Suite platform are now being hit with fees they couldn’t have seen coming, with the threat of their Google integrations being suspended if they don’t pay up by August 1.

Many small business owners feel Google basically broke its long-standing promise that these business tools would always be free. “It struck me as needlessly petty,” Patrick Gant, owner of Ottawa-based Think It Creative, told The New York Times.

Custom business email addresses are just one part of Google’s product model that’s left behind its free options as of late. Google Photos, one of the only free unlimited photo-backup options available, last year forced users to sign up for a subscription if they wanted to keep using the service.

All this from a company valued at nearly $1.5 trillion. During an ongoing global pandemic, no less.

Legacy no more — Google Workspace — the suite of cloud tools formerly known as G Suite — was introduced in 2006 as a free service for both individuals and businesses. By 2011, the suite had been rebranded as “Google Apps” and changed to a subscription business model. Many businesses that signed up for free accounts between these years were allowed to skip the subscription; these legacy users found out this January that they’d no longer be given free access beginning on May 1.

Legacy G Suite users made enough noise about the relatively sudden change that Google delayed the upgrade to July 1. Accounts with no payment info would be suspended.

Broken promises — With the new start date rapidly approaching, many small business owners have spoken up about feeling like Google has violated a pact it made to always offer these business tools for free. Google support has reportedly been entirely unhelpful in assisting business owners in switching to a paid subscription — a process you’d think Google would want to make effortless to cash in.

“I don’t mind you kicking us off,” Supreme Equipment Company owner Samad Sajanlal told NYT. “But don’t give us an unrealistic deadline to go and find an alternative while you’re still deciding if you really want to kick us off in the first place.”

Google isn’t registering its customers’ frustrations. “Moving to a Google Workspace subscription can be done in a few clicks,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement.

The sudden switch-up is yet another example of Big Tech’s far-reaching power. With a snap of its long fingers, Google has made life frustrating for many small business owners, who have remained loyal to the company for decades.

Sajanlal’s concern is a valid one; Google and other Big Tech companies have maintained their prowess largely by devouring the competition. What choice is there but to fork up the cash?