Google introduced Gmail in 2004 and then business apps such as Docs and Sheets two years later.

The search giant was eager for start-ups and mom-and-pop shops to adopt its work software, so it offered the services free and let companies bring to Gmail custom domains that matched their business names.

Google presents a bill to small businesses. The charge is for email and other work-related apps that had been free.

When Google told small businesses in January that they would no longer be able to use a customized email service that other workplace apps for free, it felt like a broken promise for Richard J. Dalton Jr, who operates a scholastic test-prep company in Vancouver British Columbia.

'' They're basically strong-arming us to switch to something paid after they got us hooked on this free service ,'' said Mr. Dalton, who first set up Google Google work email for his business, Your Score Booster, in 2008.

Google said that longtime users of what it calls its G suite legacy free edition, which includes email and apps like Docs and Calendar, had to start paying a monthly charge, usually around $6 for each business  email address.

Businesses that do not voluntarily switch to a paid service by June 27 will be automatically moved to one. If they don't pay by Aug-1, their accounts will be suspended.

Although the cost of the paid service would be more of an annoyance than a major financial blow, small-business owners affected by the change say they have been disappointed by the way Google has dealt with the process.

They said that Google, a giant company that makes billions of dollars in profits, is squeezing little guys, including some of the businesses that first used Google's app for work.

''It struck me as needlessly petty,'' said Patrick Gant, the owner of Think It Creative, a marketing consultancy in Ottawa. ''It's hard to feel sorry for someone who received something for free for a long time and are now being told that they need to pay for it.

But there was a promise that was mad. That's what compelled me to make the decision to go with Google versus other alternatives.''

Google's decision to charge organizations that have used its apps for free is another example of its search for ways to extract more money from existing business, similar to how it has sometimes put four ads stop research results instead of three and has jammed more commercials into YouTube videos.

In recent years, Google has more aggressively pushed into selling software subscriptions to businesses and competed more directly with Microsoft, which produces the Word and Excel programs that dominate the market.

After a number of users complained about the change to a paid service, an initial May 1 deadline was delayed. Google also said people using old accounts for personal rather than business reasons could continue to do so for free.

But some business owners said that they considered whether to pay Google or abandon its services, they struggled to contact customer support.

With the deadline looming, six small business owners who spoke to The new York Times criticized what they said were confusing and vacillating communications about the service change.

''I don't mind you kicking us off,'' said Samad Sajanlal, owner of the Supreme Equipment Company, which does software consulting and other tech services in McKinney, Texas. ''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 said that the free edition didn't include customer support, but that it provided users with multiple ways to contact the company for help with their transitions.

The Publishing continues. The World Students Society thanks author Nico Grant.


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