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Google Drive Plan Renewals Inspire Suit

(CN) - Google fails to make consumers aware that paid subscriptions to its data-storage service Drive are renewed automatically, a class action alleges.

Eric Mayron, the North Hollywood-based lead plaintiff behind the complaint filed in Santa Clara County Superior Court, says he has been paying for Google Drive since 2014.

Though Google offers 15 gigabytes of Google Drive storage for free, subscribers can upgrade their memberships to store more files by purchasing a storage plan, according to the Jan. 23 complaint.

The two most basic paid subscription plans run $1.99 a month for 100 GB and $9.99 a month for a terabyte.

But Mayron says Google failed to clearly present the terms of its automatic renewal offer, and charges the credit or debit cards of its subscribers every month without affirmative consent.

Google also fails to provide subscribers with acknowledgement that includes the offer terms for continuous service, or a cancelation policy and information regarding how to cancel, according to the complaint.

The terms are buried in a "vague and ambiguous" Terms of Service agreement for Google Wallet, the company's service for storing credit card information, Mayron says.

"These Google Wallet Terms of Service are accessible via an inconspicuous hyperlink at the bottom of the Google Wallet webpage," the complaint states. "The font of the hyperlink itself is smaller and lighter in color than the remainder of the website. In addition, the disclosures that are actually provided are hidden in the lengthy, 30-page, densely-worded, single-spaced Google Wallet Terms of Service. And the disclosures are buried in the middle of the Google Wallet Terms of Service itself."

Mayron says Google failed with in its TOS pages to state its continuous-service terms "in clear and conspicuous language, i.e., in larger type than the surrounding text, or in contrasting type, font, or color to the surrounding text of the same size, or set off from the surrounding text of the same size by symbols or other marks, in a manner that clearly calls attention to the language."

The complaint goes on to describe an online-checkout odyssey that never mentions "the automatic renewal offer terms or continuous service offer terms."

"After plaintiff and class members clicked on the 'buy' hyperlink, plaintiff's and class members' storage plans commenced and defendant charged plaintiff's and class members' payment method on a recurring, monthly basis," the complaint states. "The disclosures that defendant made on the above-shown 'review your purchase' page are in smaller font than the rest of the 'review your purchase page' for the item and price descriptions."

Mayron says the failure "to present the automatic renewal offer terms, or continuous service offer terms, in a clear and conspicuous manner before the subscription or purchasing agreement was fulfilled and in visual proximity to the request for consent to the offer" violates the California Business & Professional Code.

The complaint notes that Google Drive, available via Google Apps, had 190 million monthly active users as of June 2014, a rise of 85 percent in the past year.

Google, valued at $400 billion as of July 2014, reports that 8 percent of Fortune 500 companies used Google Drive, according to the complaint.

Mayron wants to represent a class of California residents who bought subscriptions to Google Drive since April 24, 2012, the date that Google launched the service.

He seeks restitution and injunction for such violations and unfair competition.

Todd Seaver with Berman DeValerio in San Francisco represents the class.

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