Broken promises: Verizon, Google, and the Chromebook data debacle

When a company promises two years of free mobile data service with a device, you expect them to deliver. So what happens when a promise suddenly evaporates after you've purchased a product?

Chromebook Pixel: Verizon Data Plan

That's the situation owners of Google's LTE Chromebook Pixel are finding themselves facing right now. The LTE model of the Pixel went on sale from Google's Play Store last April for $1450. At the time, the product was advertised as coming with a free two-year mobile broadband plan from Verizon -- 100MB per month, with the option to purchase more data on a pay-as-you-go basis as needed.

Fast-forward to one year later, and Pixel LTE owners are discovering their data plans have been disconnected. The option to pay for data remains, but the free 100MB per month mysteriously vanished just one year into the promised two-year period.

Chromebook Pixel Verizon Wireless

What Pixel owners saw when first activating their devices' data service

Reports of the issue started popping up around the Web in April. As a Pixel LTE owner myself -- I purchased one shortly after they went on sale last spring -- I was able to confirm firsthand what consumers are experiencing.

Verizon is telling customers that as far as it's concerned, the plans were valid only for one year -- and that's why those initiated last spring are now expiring. I called the carrier's customer service line and, after holding for 15 minutes and then talking in circles to an agent for another 10, was able to get through to a supervisor. That person politely told me he wasn't aware of any two-year commitment and that -- despite my pointing out official documentation to the contrary -- there was nothing he could do to help me. 

I tried Google Play's customer support line next, but agents there didn't have any answers. They "escalated" the case for further review but have yet to get back to me with a resolution.

Google's official Chromebook Pixel LTE product page no longer makes any mention of the free data plan; in fact, a footnote added to the bottom of the page now says the product "is currently not eligible for any free Verizon data plans." If you look back at an old version of the page via archive.org, however, you'll see the original promise in plain sight:

Chromebook Pixel LTE

A press release still online at Google's press site also acknowledges the original data plan -- and actually describes it as being valid for three years instead of two:

Chromebook Pixel LTE (Press)

But nowhere were consumers ever told the plan would expire after a single year of use. 

Now, 100MB per month obviously isn't much -- but that's not the point. (It is often enough to get you online in a pinch, whether to take care of a quick task or even just to pick up a larger mobile data allotment -- but again, that's neither here nor there.) The point is that the plan was included as part of the Pixel purchase, and someone is now reneging on that commitment and leaving customers without part of what they paid for.

Android Power Twitter

I shared details about this situation with PR representatives from both Verizon and Google last Wednesday, and both companies have told me they're looking into the matter. I'll pass along any additional details as they become available.

UPDATE: Google offering $150 credits to make up for Chromebook data debacle

FREE Computerworld Insider Guide: IT Certification Study Tips
Join the discussion
Be the first to comment on this article. Our Commenting Policies