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Google pinches fewer pennies in video shutdown

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After a nudge from The Reg - and what would seem to be thousands of angry emails - Google will now provide full refunds to anyone who purchased clips from the now defunct Google Video store.

On August 10, the world's largest search engine quietly slipped an email to Google Video customers, saying it would soon shutdown the site's DTO/DTR (download-to-own/download-to-rent) feature. Those who had paid good money to watch a video for the rest of their lives were told they could only watch for the next 5 days.

But these users did not receive full refunds. Instead, they received Google Checkout credits - which would allow them to purchase stuff from Google partners like 2kool4school Musical Instruments and Used Golf Ball Deals.

In a conversation with The Reg, the company argued that providing refunds would be much too difficult because many of its customers were no longer using the credit card numbers and billing addresses they'd keyed into the site when purchasing their Google videos.

Naturally, your humble reporter pointed out there was nothing preventing the company from sending an email that politely asked customers to update their credit card info. And that's exactly what Google has now decided to do.

Last night, with a post to The Official Google Blog, Google Video product manager Bindu Reddy admitted that the company had screwed up, announcing a full refund for all video buyers. "When your friends and well-intentioned acquaintances tell you that you've made a mistake, it's good to listen," he wrote. "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."

All customers will receive an email explaining the refund, and yes, it includes a link where they can update their credit card info. "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," the blog continues.

But don't worry: You can still keep the used golf balls. The company isn't rescinding the original Google Checkout credits. "Think of it as an additional 'we're sorry we goofed' credit," said Reddy.

What's more, buyers can continue watching their videos for the next six months. It's not a lifetime, but it's something.

Bootnote

When we phoned Google about its video about-face, a spokesperson gave us one other (slightly) newsworthy tip. Starting today, at Google News, certain search results will be linked to related YouTube videos from site partners like the BBC and Reuters, and with an extra click, these videos can be viewed right there on the results page - without opening a new browser window or browser tab. Expect an official Google blog post later today. ®

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