Google, Can Indie Stone Have Their Money?

By John Walker on April 26th, 2011 at 12:21 am.

Scenes outside The Indie Stone, yesterday.

Poor old Indie Stone. In their attempts to self-fund the development of their new game, Project Zomboid, they aren’t having much luck. A couple of months back Paypal froze their account, leading to their adding in a Google Checkout button. Paypal eventually fixed the error and gave them their money, but a lot of people chose to pre-order and donate to the project via Google’s alternative in the meantime. About 80% of their funds, in fact. Which have now been frozen without explanation by Google, and without any obvious way to get at their money. Which puts the team in a very difficult place.

This is a real issue for the various ways online projects can bring in the funds. Small print can put them in very dangerous places. And when it’s your business relying on that money, it can be devastating.

After the hiccup with PayPal, Google Checkout proved to be a much more popular option for people wanting to donate to the Zomboid project, bringing in a surge of new donations, and enough money to fund the project for a few months. But then today Indie Stone received an email from Google informing them that they must remove the Google widget from their front page. They said they took issue with the word “donations”. Zomboid had set up a system where people could get a Project Zomboid pre-order for £5, and choose if they wanted to donate £5, £10 or £15 on top, since Google didn’t offer the “donate what you want” model the team would have preferred. But there were no further details, and offered no specific means of getting in touch with Google to resolve the situation. And most of all, no information at all on what would happen to the two month’s worth of money that was in their account, but had not been transferred to their bank.

Indie Stone sent them an urgent email asking what to do, and received this astonishing reply (our emphasis):

“We advise buyers to contact sellers directly to resolve any order-related issues.”

The Indie Stone promise that anyone who has paid, and doesn’t receive their money back from Google, will have their pre-order honoured. But they’re in a pretty frightening place, with 80% of the funds AWOL, and no clear idea what happens next.

In the meantime, if you would like to pre-order the game (which we have high hopes for), people can still send them money via Paypal.

And Google – could you get in touch with The Indie Stone and sort this out?

(If you’re an indie team in a similar predicament, get in touch with us too.)

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118 Comments »

  1. RP says:

    Remember when Google acted like they were Not Evil? Poor Indie Stone.

    • karry says:

      The last time i heard about how good and benevolent Google was, was before they aquired Youtube. Which they promptly began to smash into oblivion. Youtube search is still absolute shit (isnt it odd, for a company that was created from a search engine to have shit search engine ?), that bugs out and loops after about 7 pages, not to mention misses huge chunks of hits.
      Google employee is a pejorative term in my lexicon.

    • HeavyStorm says:

      @kerry, why is the YT search shit? I never thought it so…

    • wsmieszek says:

      Oh how we laughed and laughed.
      Except I wasn’t laughing…

      :(

    • BAReFOOt says:

      What I don’t get, is why nobody here seems to mention, that what Google did is exactly THEFT.
      They stole the money. Plain and simple. Oh, and fraud.

      So the next logical step, is to sue them for theft and fraud. Fuck the small print. No terms in the world make this behaviour legal.

      What we learned from this:
      1.“Don’t be evil” was, is, and will always be newspeak. “War is peace, freedom is slavery, evil is good.”
      2. If the company is not officially a bank, which has to adhere to bank laws for giving you back your money, don’t ever trust it with your money!

    • Loix says:

      I don’t want to come across as a Google shill, but it’s pretty clear in the Google Checkout T&Cs that you cannot use GC to solicit donations without being a registered charity.

      Ignoring T&Cs and EULAs is for individuals, not businesses.

      Now, Google, give them the fucking money. Give them *my* money that I sent them through Google Checkout, because dammit, I want this damn game.

    • Milky1985 says:

      “I don’t want to come across as a Google shill, but it’s pretty clear in the Google Checkout T&Cs that you cannot use GC to solicit donations without being a registered charity.

      Ignoring T&Cs and EULAs is for individuals, not businesses.

      Now, Google, give them the fucking money. Give them *my* money that I sent them through Google Checkout, because dammit, I want this damn game.”

      Thats fine, but why do they then not RETURN the money. If its not going to go through to the person you were trying to send it to due to T and C’s then fine, but keeping the money themselves insteead of returning it to the person who sent it? Sounds a bit dodgy to me, maybe i should do that , take money from something but then say “oh sorry, the person who signed the contract wiht me broke the contract, but i’m not giving your money back, i don’t have to”, bet i wouldn’t last 5 minutes before i got hit with 50K lawsuits that stuck.

      Thats why you shouldn’t trust google OR paypal with anythign like this. They are acting like banks but without the regulations and need to be hit very hard with a financal services hammer.

    • Tssha says:

      They haven’t stolen the money. Not until they state for the record that they don’t intend to turn the money over to either Indie Stone OR their customers, or move the money into their own coffers (instead of the escrow limbo the funds presently reside in).

      If you want your money back, contact Google. In fact, start a letter writing campaign. Get them to move this out of limbo.

      The devs have acknowledged that they didn’t re-read the terms of service to take into account the change they were making. A faux pas on their part, but understandable. This will eventually be resolved and if not, they’ve graciously decided to honour all pre-orders, even if they never got a cent out of it. Now that’s class.

      But don’t for one minute call it theft. Red tape limbo, yes. Theft, no. Goddamnit folks, these are legal terms you’re bandying about! If you said this in an article, they could sue you for libel! Be glad they can’t do the same for comments threads.

    • Milky1985 says:

      “Theft, no. Goddamnit folks, these are legal terms you’re bandying about! If you said this in an article, they could sue you for libel! Be glad they can’t do the same for comments threads.”

      Theft = taking without consent. While they have it and its not been given to the other side/back it could be classed as theft (thisi s different from the piracy thing that people class as theft, as the money is only in one location, currently googles bank account), would depend on the judge/lawyer so is unlikely to ever get anywhere as they will jsut say “we were only holding it (which is an offence anyway so coudl be weird legal ground) (they are a big company so a judge would likely side with the big company)

      Also they can sue someone for libel based on comment threads, there is nothing to say that they can’t. Likelyhood is that they won’t due to the fact that it woudl make the crap hit the fan with a lot of people suddenly turning against em for having a god at someone commenting on something.

      Not a lawyer btw but all in theory possible

    • ScubaMonster says:

      I seriously, seriously doubt it’s possible to sue someone for a comment in a comment thread. That’s like saying “I don’t like Google, they are dicks and con artists” is grounds for suing. You can state opinions without being sued. And yes, saying you think this is theft is an opinion. We aren’t professionals smearing their name in the mud. Hell if that was grounds for lawsuits, every politician in the world should be sued.

    • RadioactiveMan says:

      Re: Karry and Heavystorm about YouTube search: YouTube search IS terrible, but I don’t think its the fault of google’s search technique.

      In my experience, the problem is how YouTube implements sponsored videos. There are way too many sponsored videos, and “preferred” uploaders that flood the search results with multiple copies of the same video, each with un-skippable advertising that must be watched prior to the video of interest. Additionally, YouTube is caught in the middle between individuals who upload videos, and corporations who want those videos taken down because of copyright infringement.

      These two things, an excess of corporate uploaders and copyright issues, greatly hinder the effectiveness of YouTube’s search. Its too bad, because these things are making YouTube terrible. There is nothing they can do about the copyright stuff, but they could (but probably will not) limit the influence of corporate uploaders. If nothing changes, YouTube will move towards a model more and more like Hulu or Netflix, with the user-submitted videos pushed back into a corner somewhere.

    • Masked Dave says:

      “Not a lawyer btw but all in theory possible”

      I wish you’d opened with that, then I wouldn’t have wasted my time listening to your waffle. You clearly have no idea how an eMoney license works. That’s the license you need (in the UK at least, I’ll admit to having no knowledge about the US side of things) to be able to do the kind of ‘banking’ we’re talking about.

      Basically you are allowed to hold the money in your bank account (up to a certain amount) but it has to be ringfenced (ie it can’t be spent by you). If Google were to transfer this money onto their own balance sheet, only then can you say it was stolen.

      As for suing for libel, how the hell can you sue a username on a comment thread?

      It sounds like Google’s problem is just with the term donations. If Indie Stone made the product available at three different prices and end users chose which one they wanted to buy then this problem would probably go away.

  2. feffrey says:

    I love Google, however they really need to work on their customer service. They generally provide great stuff, but if it breaks or if Google gets upset for some reason, it is neigh short of impossible to get a hold of someone.
    If you are doing something with money, you should provide good support.

    Also is this zome sort of Zombie XCOM?

  3. Devenger says:

    Oooh dear. Sounds like Google has left some very incompetent people doing a far too important job.

    • bob_d says:

      Pee-puhl? What are these peepuhl of which you speak? How do they differ from the robots that provide customer support at Google?

    • Devenger says:

      Touché. They let some incompetent people make the decision to automate too much of their customer services arm.

    • Teddy Leach says:

      It is my considered opinion that Daleks are the ones that run Google.

      EXTERMINATE. EXTERMINATE. YOU. WILL. BE. EXTERMINATED.

  4. dancingcrab says:

    This is terrible.

  5. Premium User Badge Diziet Sma says:

    Makes me kinda glad I donated via paypal.

  6. Nick Ahlhelm says:

    Everyone’s blaming Google for this, but doesn’t it seem strange to anyone else that both PayPal AND Google have frozen this company’s online accounts. Sure they fixed the PayPal issue, but it sure makes these folks seem kind of shady to me.

    • John Walker says:

      What a deeply peculiar assertion. The Paypal issue was quickly resolved. And they’re a team who are blogging every tiny detail of the project so people can see exactly what the money’s being spent on.

    • Uthred says:

      Just like those “shady guys” behind Minecraft who faced the same issues?

    • bob_d says:

      I think the only problem is that they’ve been slightly sloppy in how they set up and labeled the donation links. With Paypal, they could speak to an actual human being and quickly sort out the minor issue. With Google, they’re stuck in automated hell, trying to resolve what should be a simple problem with semantics.

    • JohnnyMaverik says:

      It’s pretty usual for PayPal to freeze accounts when abnormally large amounts of money start flooding in or out. Even highstreet banks do it, my bank account got frozen once cuz I spent a grand on a laptop, where as previously the largest amount of money to leave the account at any one time had been about 150 quid, so it got automatically flagged and locked for unusual activity. Took a couple of calls to sort it out (takes longer with a PayPal freeze mind you).

      It famously happened to Notch, but I’ve heard of it happening a few other times to indie devs before, the good thing is I’ve never heard of the problem being overly drawn out, or the devs loosing out on any of their hard earned funds, just being a minor but fairly understandable (from PayPal’s point of view) annoyance.

      The reason Google have frozen their account with them is different, as said in the article, it’s the donation part that they’re taking issue with.

      I really hope they manage to get this sorted. If it doesn’t I’m sure it’ll do no good to Google’s image among the indie side of the industry, a sector Google already heavily rely to get games onto their android app store, plus I believe they either have or are creating a home pc digital distribution service, which I imagine will rely heavily on games submitted by indie teams as well. Lets just hope their transformation into a clumsy giant corp hasn’t been completely finalized and no lasting damage is done to either side… not that I give a crap about any damage done to Google of course, but it’d be a travesty if this corporate bureaucracy leads to a talented indie team getting a potentially fatal blow.

    • Ubersuntzu says:

      As has already been mentioned by many others, having your paypal and google accounts frozen isn’t an indication of shady activity.

      Any small business whose income is all based around internet transactions is bound to run into a problem like this at some point. It’s only an indication that you have more than the average person’s weekly entertainment budget in your bank account.

    • Nalano says:

      That’s a very “where there’s smoke there’s fire” stance to take, Nick, which places way too much power in the hands of the accuser.

  7. Tonic says:

    surprised there was a no mention of minecraft/mojang, who was also a victim of this via paypal

  8. Garmr says:

    This makes me sad while also giving me the subtle urge to chop off some google heads. I really hope this will get resolved.

  9. Lewie Procter says:

    I just threw my android phone out of the window in solidarity.

    Feel a bit silly about it now though.

  10. Heliocentric says:

    This is why when i release my as yet unstarted indie game I will only accept payment in the form of gold.

  11. lemmy101 says:

    The issue is Google Checkout has been so much more unclear of the ramifications. Paypal were all “hey, give us some extra info and we’ll unlimit your account”, where Google were “Hey, you’ve been selling stuff that we deem NOT ALLOWED. Remove it from your marketplace immediately.” and by implication does this not mean all our sales with them to date are invalid? Or not? MAYBE IT’S FINE?
    We just don’t know, and that’s quite terrifying. Perhaps we’ve got it all wrong and it’ll be fine, but left in an information vacuum where the only information you’re given is that you broke the TOS (and yes, perhaps we should have been more attentive to the TOS, but we’ve never claimed to be good businessmen, just indie game developers) and that techically deems every transaction to that point ‘illegal’ by their TOS? What are we to assume with no prompt reply beyond the nonsense we got?.
    Surely if they take issue with the word ‘donation’, then this could have been flagged the moment we wrote the words ‘donation’ into the product names for the checkout widget? Instead of NOW?
    Also thanks John for raising this, if it helps us then great, but if it helps other indies be more careful and avoid these pitfalls, all the better.

    • rivalin says:

      TOS are not legally binding, internet companies seem to think they can get away with what is in effect theft. If google has a problem with them, they can contact the police, otherwise they should give them their money immediately, and then if they want to sever their relationship with them that’s fine.
      Companies like Google seem to think that they’re above the ordinary strictures of law, but frankly if they don’t hand over the money then they should be reported to trading standards like any other small time crooks.

    • slaine says:

      Just because you broke the TOS does NOT mean google gets to keep the money. They need to either give you the money back or refund the money to the people who donated.

    • Thants says:

      Fun Fact: No TOS has ever been read and understood in its entirety.

    • sassy says:

      Fun Fact: No TOS has ever been understood by the author or company.

    • JackShandy says:

      A TOS can be either oserved or understood, not both.

    • Premium User Badge QuantaCat says:

      I vote for retweeting to get this resolved faster. (Ive already done so)

  12. Kaishen says:

    This is just so wrong! Hopefully they will get their money back. Somebody should really help these guys out

  13. skinlo says:

    Another reason why Google aren’t as good as they might first seem.

  14. Nick says:

    Do no evil.

  15. alexanderwales says:

    The reason that Google suspended the account is that they don’t allow donations unless you’re a certified non-profit. If you mention “donate” or “donations”, Google will shut you down. This is as laid out in their TOS here. Now, perhaps Google should have contacted them to say “knock that off, no donations unless you’re a non-profit, it says so in the thing you signed”, and they do need to get better at doing this in a more human way, but it should be clear that Google isn’t solely at fault here.

    • lemmy101 says:

      Please read my above post, as well as the main blog post the article references, we’re fully aware of where our own blame lies in this. :)

    • Spider Jerusalem says:

      Sure. But in the normal world of People where People Things happen this is a relatively minor Thing that should be solved with a quick bit of People Words to other People.

    • Milky1985 says:

      Thats fine, refund the money to the poeple who “donated” then…. oh wait you are keeping the money? So basically we are donating to google which is against googles own T and C, does that mean google have to remove themselves from the google checkout system?

    • Lightbulb says:

      ‘Donations’ to non-charity = potential money laundering? Thus should be investigated..?

  16. QualityJeverage says:

    This is the problem with Google and their love of automation. If things are working properly, great. But if and when something goes wrong, it ain’t easy to find an actual human to talk to. Regardless of who is at fault here, it shouldn’t be so difficult just to get information from a real person.

  17. TillEulenspiegel says:

    Google has obviously dealt with this poorly, but:

    Important: Your account may be suspended if you’re accepting donations via Google Checkout, but you do not represent a valid 501(c)(3) or a 501(c)(6) tax-exempt organization.

    https://checkout.google.com/support/sell/bin/answer.py?answer=72721

    They broke the rules. Customers will probably be refunded.

    • Spider Jerusalem says:

      Le sigh.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      Thanks for your highly insightful contribution of a useless, annoying fucking meme.

      The only issue I see here is poor communication. Obviously Google’s not going to give the developers the money, as they feel customers may have been mislead. Keeping it would be enormously stupid. The only real question is *when* the customers will be refunded.

      The blog didn’t make it remotely clear that they knew they were to blame, just lots of angry words towards Big Mean Google, who are doing exactly what they said they would if you read their rules.

    • CaptainBinky says:

      Our issue is less about why they suspended the account since, as you point out, that information is there on their website, but the manner in which they have done it.

      As we point out in the blog, when we had a similar issue with PayPal, they gave us notice, they sent us an email explaining why and what we had to do, we did what they asked, and everything was resolved.

      With Google Checkout, they have told us nothing, have replied with irrelevant robot stock responses, gave us no notice, and have not made it clear what will happen to the funds or when our supporters can expect to get their money back.

      Although, ultimately, the whole thing can be labelled as our fault, the way this has been handled by Google Checkout has been extremely poor compared to PayPal.

    • Spider Jerusalem says:

      @ TillEulenspiegel

      If you were as good at reading blog posts as you are at reading terms of service, you’d realize how fucking stupid your post was.

  18. Caveat53 says:

    At least part of what is happening here is that the bank card processor that Google uses is concerned that each one of these payments are going to shortly turn into chargebacks. If the merchant (Indie Stone) gets all of the money, takes it out of their bank and then doesn’t release a product, Google gets stuck with the bill paying back everybody who made a purchase.

    Believe it or not this is pretty standard practice for bank card processors especially when dealing with an online merchant, and especially for one that gets a lot of payments right after opening up. ANY merchant that accepts credit cards as payments can have this happen to them at the drop of a hat, for any reason or none at all. If somebody in the fraud department gets a hunch that a merchant is bad news, funds can be held for up to SIX MONTHS before being released to the merchant. It rarely goes on that long but the reason it can happen is because you will typically have a chargeback initiated within that time if it’s going to happen.

    • Thants says:

      Ironically, holding the funds of a small indie company for six months because they’re worried about them not releasing a product might cause them to be unable to release a product.

  19. Branthog says:

    That’s the problem with so many of these enormous companies. They don’t offer any customer service. Seriously, if I had a problem with anything I use Google for – even as a paying customer – I wouldn’t even have the slightest fucking clue how to get in touch with a human being.

  20. alec127 says:

    i made an account just to comment on this. Google is evil. I solely believe it, whether truthful or not. I watched a super long documentary on how they plan to take over the world. Kinda funny if its not true, but at the slight chance it is, i refuse to use anything google. And this floors it man. Even if they aren’t evil, they need to treat their customers with respect, and dignity.

    • Tssha says:

      Yes, because they can actually take over the world. *facepalm*

      This post reads like a bad CWAL story. Believe it or not, major corporations don’t conspire to take over the world. Not unless their name is SPECTRE. *pets his while furred tabby*

  21. Fiwer says:

    What’s to stop someone from making up a fake project, taking “donations” to help fund its development, and then disappearing with the money? This is probably exactly what Google is trying to prevent.

    But oh no, the development of what appears to be yet another newsgrounds zombie game that won’t ever be released is being interrupted! Alert the internet!

    • Mattressi says:

      So what you’re saying is that you need big daddy Google to help you make decisions about what you do with your money?

      Go away, troll.

    • Hallgrim says:

      @Mattressi: You can’t be serious? Google shouldn’t care whether its customers are fleeced by people asking for “donations” for their for-profit enterprise?

      Yeah, personally I’d like Google to make sure that the charitable donations I can make with their service are actually for charities. I guess because I’m a big wet pussy, and not a big ‘ol internet tough guy like you who doesn’t need “The Man” telling him what to do all the time.

    • Fiwer says:

      No, what I’m saying is that once you start taking money from people, you’re in business. You can no longer just say “Oh, terms of service, who reads stuff like that?” You now have legal obligations, as does Google Checkout, or Paypal, or whomever else is involved in your transactions. If you ask for a charitable donation and you’re not legally a charity, you are breaking the law. It’s completely reasonable for Google to have a problem with that.

      Also, I sincerely doubt that Google sent an e-mail that only said “We advise buyers to contact sellers directly to resolve any order-related issues.” What I’m guessing happened is Indie Stone e-mailed Google, and got one of those automated responses saying “We’ll contact you within (timeframe), here’s our recommendations in the meantime” with a list of things to try including the bit about buyers contacting sellers. They then decided to cut out that single line and use it out of context to make Google look like they sent them a personalized response that made no sense. It all sounds pretty shady to me, but hey let’s overreact and assume THE MAN is stomping on the innocent indie developer!

    • Mattressi says:

      It’s not an issue of being a big wet pussy, it’s an issue of lacking any kind of common sense and personal responsibility. If you want to make sure your donation money doesn’t go to something which isn’t a charity, then…uh…perhaps don’t send it to an obviously (self professed) for-profit company! There was no deceit on the developers parts; they were clear that you’d be pre-ordering the game and that you could decide to ‘donate’ extra if you wish. If you need Google to protect you from being ‘duped’ into donating to them because you honestly believed that they were some kind of zombie apocalypse relief charity, then what you really need is to be locked away in a mental hospital.
      It’s people like you who rely on others to tell them what to do with their money that force the rest of us to have our own money frozen when we know EXACTLY where it’s going and exactly what it is going there for!

      Edit: posted at the same time as Fiwer.

      Fiwer, the problem is that they’re a small indie team with no money to pay a lawyer to scour the ToS just to check whether they can say the word ‘donation’. The fact that if they’d changed it to ‘tip’ it would’ve been fine makes it a little ridiculous that their entire account was suspended without notice and without any clear means to repeal. Clearly it can’t be a major legal issue to use the word ‘donate’ – Paypal closed their account for a bit, then let them have it back once everything was cleared up, yet they’re still allowed to have a button saying ‘donate’ on it for Paypal.

      And Google didn’t only send that email; from what I can remember, Google also sent them one saying “your account has been suspended”, but with no way for them to repeal it. If you bothered to search for it (I hesitate to use the word ‘google’ due to the irony involved) you’d find many other people have been in the same position, where Google have basically said “Your account is permanently suspended. We can’t/won’t tell you why and there’s no way to get it back. Have a nice day”.
      There’s nothing shady about these guys; they’re straight up, honest and extremely hard working by the looks of it. They are always interacting with their community and seem very trustworthy.

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      @Matressi,

      I’m pretty sure Google is legally bound to not accept and stop any transaction that doesn’t respect its country laws. You may want to think this is Google decision, but matter of fact is that, as a financial liaison acting similar to a bank, Google Checkout has to obey the same very strict laws pertaining donations than any other financial institution in the USA.

      If this is a burden and can still put Google in legal harm’s way, it’s sensible for Google to tighten its own rules further in order to avoid problems for the company. Google isn’t creating these rules because it doesn’t like you. Get real.

    • Mattressi says:

      Mario, Paypal still allows them to use the word ‘donate’ (in fact, the button to preorder using Paypal is a big “donate” button), despite closing their account before, so it can’t be that big of a legal issue (or even an issue at all). But really, thanks for the straw man – I mean, I clearly stated my frustration that Google “doesn’t like me”, right?
      Besides, part of the issue is that Google gave no notice or warning and still hasn’t refunded those who paid using Google Checkout and hasn’t said when/if it will.

    • Novack says:

      Quoting Mattressi: “It’s people like you who rely on others to tell them what to do with their money that force the rest of us to have our own money frozen when we know EXACTLY where it’s going and exactly what it is going there for!”

      +1 !!

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      But that was the implication of your little rant, that google does it for the lulz. It doesn’t, so, again, get real! And google also lets you use the word “donate” as long you are are a non-profit organization.

      We do agree however that the real flaw here is in Google response mechanisms that basically suck.

    • Novack says:

      “But that was the implication of your little rant, that google does it for the lulz.”

      I cant read such “implication” anywhere. Dont derail.

    • Mattressi says:

      I’m not sure what your definition of “the lulz” is, but if it means “they do it to cover themselves in case their idiot customers come crying to them about how they’ve been ‘duped’ out of their money because they sent it to someone without fully reading or understanding where it was going and why”, then yes, I guess that’s what my rant was about.

      I’m now wondering whether you just really like using the phrase “get real”, so you’ll construct any straw man you can to tell me that ‘my’ fictional argument is incorrect.

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      Oh please, as if people didn’t require protection from all sorts scams. It’s your own lonely world, If you want to believe you live in a place where users who get scammed are idiots who got what they deserved.

      Google does it, covered by law, to protect its users and itself. The users because, yes they need all the help they can get protect against web fraud, and themselves because lack of any sort of protection could held them liable to lawsuits or exponentially increase the costs in customer support because suddenly Google Checkout would become known by any scammer as Fraud Paradise.

      If you think you dignify yourself from your high tower, think again. You can’t even think through your own bullshit to see if it doesn’t stink.

    • Mattressi says:

      But, again, I’m talking about idiot customers who would click on a ‘donate’ button to give money to what they assume is a charity (because, anyone asking for donations is obviously a non-profit charity, right?) and then turn around and complain when it turns out that they were too damned stupid to read that it clearly says “Click the following Paypal button and give £5 or more to purchase a lifetime license to the game”.

      I have no issue with Google closing the accounts of people who are actually committing fraud or conning people – I have an issue when they close an account simply because it uses the word ‘donate’ (even though it also uses the word ‘purchase’ as well), especially when they treat them like complete crap and offer no obvious way to repeal.

      I really just don’t understand you, Mario. Everything you are arguing about seems to be just you intentionally misinterpreting what I’m saying so that you can talk down to me and generally be a complete douche when I’m trying to be reasonable about this.

    • Consumatopia says:

      If you ask for a charitable donation and you’re not legally a charity, you are breaking the law.

      I’m not a lawyer or accountant, but I don’t think this is true. You’re violating Google’s TOS, but not the law.

      And really, the issue is less whether Google is legally in the right and more whether this makes us more or less likely to want to do business with Google. For me, it’s definitely less.

    • orionwl says:

      How the hell does the type of game and whether you can appreciate the genre come into it? Troll.

      It is a small legal business which relies on game sales though their payment provider to survive. Yes, they might have committed the small sin to use a word they shouldn’t have, but that doesn’t mean they deserve such a bad thing happening to them.

      I really hope Google sorts this out.

    • rivalin says:

      TOS ARE NOT LEGALLY BINDING

      they are personal contractual obligations. People are staggeringly ignorant of basic legal knowledge.

      It’s the samew with EULAs, everytime there’s a discussion on the internet some idiots pipe up with, “you broke the EULA, that’s illegal!” “You broke the TOS, x has the legal right to” etc etc.

      Seriously, many terms of service and EULAs aren’t even enforceable because THEY violate consumer protection laws.

    • Deano2099 says:

      While I 100% agree with your point, I’m not sure consumer protection laws apply in this case, as the TOS were for a business-to-business transaction.

    • Negativeland says:

      “I really just don’t understand you, Mario. Everything you are arguing about seems to be just you intentionally misinterpreting what I’m saying so that you can talk down to me and generally be a complete douche when I’m trying to be reasonable about this. “

      @Mattressi:

      Don’t mind him. It’s apparently impossible for him to write anything without coming off as a complete twat. Even when he’s right. He does have a point. It’s impossible for Google to gauge the intention of every user of Google Checkout, so they err on the side of caution. Scams often use intentionally confusing mixes of terms to get people to part with their money, so having both words “purchase” and “donate” on your page might raise additional, automated anti-fraud flags somewhere. Hopefully an actual human will spot this at Google at some point, and things will get sorted out. The game looks really promising.

    • Hallgrim says:

      @Mattresi: “It’s people like you who rely on others to tell them what to do with their money that force the rest of us to have our own money frozen when we know EXACTLY where it’s going and exactly what it is going there for!”

      Sweet, not only are you an internet tough guy, but you know ALL ABOUT ME! Wait wait, I can play that game too:

      Hey bro, sorry your $15 dollar donation to YET ANOTHER zombie game got frozen. I know its super serious. $15 bucks does take a long time to earn on Internet Tough Guy wages, even with the Being a Dick bonuses that come in every quarter. Maybe you should blame the developers who didn’t bother to read the ToS which clearly states in plain language that Google wouldn’t let them do what they tried to do? Nah, you should totally find someone who thinks that its a good idea that Google only allow “donations” to charities, and act like a total twat to them. Gotta keep those bonuses coming in!

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      I really just don’t understand you, Mario. Everything you are arguing about seems to be just you intentionally misinterpreting what I’m saying so that you can talk down to me and generally be a complete douche when I’m trying to be reasonable about this.

      Reasonable? You are trying to be reasonable? You start your comments on this thread by accusing everyone who gets scammed as an idiot and Indie Stone of being a victim of Google wanting to protect these idiots, as you call them, and you say you are being reasonable?

      But, again, I’m talking about idiot customers who would click on a ‘donate’ button to give money to what they assume is a charity (because, anyone asking for donations is obviously a non-profit charity, right?) and then turn around and complain when it turns out that they were too damned stupid to read that it clearly says “Click the following Paypal button and give £5 or more to purchase a lifetime license to the game”.

      And how can google have any way of knowing what happened before the transaction took place? What sort of social engineering took place, how was that person scammed, what lead someone to think they were donating when in fact they were being scammed? Exactly because you can donate not just to charity, but to about anyone you want (except for governmental organizations not running a charity program), a service like that of Google is susceptible to fraud if measures aren’t taken.

      All sorts of problems can arise from being too lenient on the rules when it comes to money transactions. These problems can turn into lawsuits, or at the very least an increase in the costs of user support. If a company like Google, backed by it’s own personal lawyer army, chooses to be more stringent in what transactions take place and how, they are in their damn right (and personally I’m happy they do it). Your only choice is to go somewhere else if you don’t like it. There’s such a thing as Consumer Protection regulations to protect consumers you just don’t give up on calling “idiots” when they make the mistake of being distracted, swindled, or just plain dumb. And no one is ever guilty by being dumb. The FTC in the USA regularly emits statements requesting exactly that web-based transactions have Consumer Protection laws at their core. But you, no. You think anyone clicking a link that doesn’t read “Donation” thinking they are donating is an idiot.

      You come here and decide that Google is just protecting the idiots of the world and in turn damaging legit business like The Indie Stone, because you just know better than being swindled.

      I understand your rhetoric just fine.

    • Mattressi says:

      Bah, I give up; it’s like talking to a brick wall (although, I’m almost certain that Hall is trolling, given his repetition of “HURRDURR STUPID ZOMBIE GAME”). I’ve clearly stated that my issue is with Google freezing an account with no prior warning nor steps to repeal, simply because someone didn’t realise that using the word ‘donate’ was against Google TOS. My point was that only an idiot could somehow be ‘conned’ by these guys into donating to them, thinking that they’re a charity – because these developers clearly stated that it was a purchase!
      And yes, Google might have a hard time discerning between the devs of PZ and a real scammer – and if they do have this issue and constantly produce false positives, they should have given warnings and clarity, rather than assuming it is, indeed, a scammer. Hell, I can’t imagine they even received a complaint saying that Indie Stone are scammers, so what reason would they have to believe they are, other than the fact that they use the word ‘donate’? If that’s all they’ve got, it seems a little unreasonable to handle it the way they did.

      Edit: So much for giving up…though I guess I gave up a long time ago when I’d given all the points a few times over, but Mario just kept saying “you think anyone who gets scammed is an idiot!”; clearly not reading my point any number of the times I stated it.

  22. Premium User Badge SpakAttack says:

    It would appear that it’s easier to win the Krypton Factor than it is to contact someone at Google about stuff like this…. shocking.

  23. Wulf says:

    And this is why I prefer PayPal over all alternatives, because for all of their supposed evils and unintentional screw ups, they do sort things out eventually, and at the end of the day, the only reason they’ll freeze something is for a fraud investigation, but at least they’ll tell you, unlike Google.

    They’re often pretty quick with sorting out solutions, too, as they were in the case of Notch as well. I remember the hysteria surrounding that and how quickly they sorted it all out, big, evil, faceless thing that they are. I mean, I’m no huge fan of capitalism/megacorps/etc, but credit where credit is due, PayPal are at least decent to their customers and will help you out if they can. I’ve experienced this myself, twice.

    I’m not sure I’d trust any other service that much.

  24. dragonhunter21 says:

    Playing devil’s adovcate for a minute here, I don’t think Google did this intentionally or maliciously. (Neither did Paypal, so far as it goes.) I do think that Google should perhaps put some eyes on their customer service for Google Checkout to avoid issues like this in future. Still, this in no way makes me re-examine Google as a company. (If anything, it makes me re-examine my view on Paypal from URG-HAET to a bit more mellow point of view.)

    (disclaimer: My phone is a Droid, my email is Gmail, and I’m currently typing this on a CR-48 Google-issued laptop- I may be a bit biased)

  25. Amun says:

    At Google, our mission is to index the world’s information* and make it accessible.

    *Except our contact info.

  26. starclaws says:

    Ya I recently submitted a bug on Youtube saying that Google itself is a bug.

  27. Corrupt_Tiki says:

    I read about when Paypal were doing this (They’re still doing afaik) But there were accusations that they were freezing the money, and making money off the interest earned on the frozen money, maybe google is doing the same thing?!

    Seems like a pretty effective way to make money, just you know, your normally quite the cunt for doing something like that.

    EDIT: http://www.paypalwarning.com/

  28. Alyxandor says:

    Perhaps try calling them, faxing them, or maybe walking into their offices
    Google Inc.
    1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
    Mountain View, CA 94043
    Phone: +1 650-253-0000
    Fax: +1 650-253-0001

    Oh and this was found by simply googling “how to contact google”. I would recommend faxing them because it is a physical sheet that pops out in an office where a human looks at it and gives it to another human who deals with the issue.

    • Teddy Leach says:

      Are you sure even they haven’t been replaced by Terminators yet? I recommend walking into their offices to check.

      Maybe they’ve replaces all the receptionists and secretaries with Stepford Wives.

    • Milky1985 says:

      You can fax to a computer, computers have OCR’ing capablities which could then be processed via computers to go to department a b or c rather than via people.

      Long shot but wouldn’t put it past google.

  29. unacomn says:

    Reminds me of the time when I made a blog about bad fiction writing and added an adsense banner to it, my account was suspended in 5 minutes for “suspicious activity”.

    My writing was so bad that it was considered dangerous to the world.

    • absolofdoom says:

      Don’t worry, all you have to do is get somebody to read it out loud and put it on youtube, and it’ll be hilarious! :D

  30. trjp says:

    This is common practice for anyone who sets-up a payment account and receives a large number/amount in donations in a relatively short time.

    You can set-up stuff like this with minimal paperwork/proof of who you are – meaning it’s an easy way to fundraise for anything you feel like (legal or otherwise) and a VERY obvious way of laundering money…

    There’s a variety of legal requirements (depending on where the payment provider/you are located) which relate to disclosure – once you trigger them, the provider is required to gather more information about you and that’s usually what is happened when accounts are suspended.

    Of course, the fact they earn interest on your money is to their benefit – they’re acting as a bank and banks fuck you everyday – are you surprised by that still??

    They created a financial crisis and were bailed out by Governments who borrowed that money from – you guessed it – the people who created the crisis. WAKEY WAKEY!

  31. bonjovi says:

    I wouldn’t jump so fast to blame Google. The payment services are full of legal crap and controlled like crazy. google is just covering their own arses.

    As usual it’s not service provider that is to blame but stupid rules invented by bureaucrats.

  32. mod the world says:

    What the internet needs is a supra-national online paying service, controlled by the UN or something.

  33. mcilrain says:

    Really, again?

    Why don’t people just use Bitcoin?

    • Ovno says:

      Because nobody has ever heard of it……

      I mean I can guess (or look it up) but wtf is bitcoin?….

      Certainly doesn’t sound like a well known company I’d trust with my cc details or anything of the like.

    • drewski says:

      Because the 0.0001% of the population who gives a crap about it isn’t going to fund anything useful.

  34. Deano2099 says:

    Google should be communicating better, but man…

    There should be a big sign in every indie developer’s office/bedroom that says “money in online payment services is not yet your money” in huge capital letters.

    Two months worth of money in the account. Why? Withdraw it on a weekly basis or whenever it’s over £100. Once I can understand, naivety and all that, but having already had a PayPal scare they should be well on top of this. If nothing else, you want the money in your account so you’re earning the interest, not PayPal or Google.

    These payment services are just that, services that money goes through to get to you. Stop using them as the world’s worst bank accounts everyone!

    • lemmy101 says:

      FWIW Checkout doesn’t work that way. They release the money when they decide to.

    • Negativeland says:

      Score 1 for Humanity!

    • lemmy101 says:

      The most amazing thing happened. After finding out that Google Checkout was going to be sorted, we logged onto ‘oh so reasonable’ heroes of the story Paypal and found out that….

      OUR ACCOUNT HAS BEEN LIMITED.

      Not even joking.

      Also with MUCH more stringent limits, and really awkward information requests such as: “Photo ID showing current address dated in the last 6 months.”

      New passports all round then!

      That all said it’s hard to be angry and not find it funny. The timing and irony of this is incredible, and we should only feel lucky to witness it in our lifetime.

      Still, the one thing about Paypal is:

      THEY ARE CLEAR. We know our money is safe, and we know what the limits are, and we know how to remove them. Even if they are a pain in the arse.

      Also the situation is not grim like before, and we’ll have enough to keep us going until that is resolved.

      It’s just bloody amazing to behold, so thought I’d share. :)

    • Premium User Badge QuantaCat says:

      Glad for you then, otherwise I would have had to resort to drumming up the people that once built a chinese firewall infront of the offices of google…

      just look up the group “monochrom”

  35. Tams80 says:

    People seem to be forgetting this about poor customer service, not whether the TOS was broken or not (which it has been admitted). Personally, I think this should be made a lot clearer. Searching donations on help came up first with “how to increase charitable donations” and the more important issue of who can use Checkout for donations in the UK was not even mentioned on the first page.

    Another problem is that there is the situation on donations in the UK. People may want to buy a product and donate on top of this. However, these donations are not in the same sense as a charity. It is more a “pay what you want” (as Indie Stone have said), yet to the customer they are ‘donating’ to the company on top of the product price, even though they are not in a legal sense. Clarity is certainly needed.

    In the end though, companies such as Google and PayPal should make their TOS much clearer. You can say all you want about having to read them when you run a company, but that doesn’t mean that they should not be user friendly. Issues such as donations should also not be buried in the TOS, they should be made clear form the start.

    • Tssha says:

      Ahh, finally someone reasonable. You are a breath of fresh air, good sir! Your clarity of thought is wonderful to behold!

  36. Premium User Badge Nathan says:

    Pray, sir, Hanlon’s razor: “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”

    Poor customer service is incompetence, not evil.

    • Premium User Badge Nathan says:

      Damned replies. (That was in response to one of many “Do no evil” comments).

    • Nick says:

      evil can be done as a result of incompetence.

  37. Kaje says:

    Fiwer said:

    “But oh no, the development of what appears to be yet another newsgrounds zombie game that won’t ever be released is being interrupted! Alert the internet!”

    Do you have to be a douche? You know nothing of the project.

  38. Miidgi says:

    This issue appears to have been resolved, as shown on their website. Perhaps a quick edit is in order?

    http://projectzomboid.com/blog/index.php/2011/04/happy-days/

  39. Premium User Badge Malcolm says:

    While I can see that Paypal/Google Checkout are very convenient indeed. Have they considered a “proper” payment provider like Worldpay? (I’m sure there are many others out there but this was the first that one springs to mind).

    Glad to see this lot have got it sorted out for the time being though.