Imagine you are shopping for a new car, eagerly comparing prices and capabilities. Although there are plenty of great options for you and your family on the market, you make a decision based on a great deal, a free warranty. Now imagine, only months after owning the car you receive an email from the dealership stating they will no longer accept the agreed upon deal of free warranty effective immediately and if you would like the warranty back you will have to pay a monthly fee. Of course, paying for a warranty is not completely unreasonable; plenty of cars require monthly payments for a good warranty. The reason to be frustrated however, you made the decision to purchase this specific car based on the promise of free warranty. You have just experienced a bait-and-switch form of advertisement.
Free Features? Not Anymore.
Although this is a make-believe scenario, a horrible situation that is far too similar is currently happening to thousands of home security customers. Canary, a home security camera company, announced its previously free services will now require fees. If a user chooses not to pay for a monthly subscription they will no longer be able to access Night Mode. This feature is designed to let users set a schedule for their Canary camera to monitor while they are sleeping without sending notifications. Another loss for free users is the capability to view recorded videos up to 24 hours. Rather, free users will now only be able to view a 10-second clip of a recording called “video previews.” In summary, instead of a fully functional home security camera, users can no longer set a recording schedule while they are asleep (and most vulnerable) or watch a recorded incident for longer than 10 seconds unless they pay a monthly subscription of $9.99 for basic functions that were free at the time of purchase. Needless to say, a few of their customers were fairly irritated by this.
Although a subscription based home security system is far from a new concept, Canary’s execution of their new plan may lead to their own. Customers who purchased the camera prior to the change were not grandfathered in and are still required to purchase a subscription to enact functions they are used to already having.
This subscription based strategy heavily relies on customers wanting to purchase a subscription and judging from the reaction of their current customers, doesn’t seem likely. The irony in all of this, Canary CEO Adam Sager, told The Verge in an interview last year, “We’re going up against Netgear, and D-Link, and Google, so if we’re gonna win it’s gonna be on being a more human-centered company and having the biggest fanbase. We’re not gonna outspend you on billboards. We’re gonna out-think you and out-deliver on experience.”
Want a Refund? Get in Line.
This form of bait-and-switch style marketing is not only horrible to its customers but can be considered unethical. The laws vary from state-to-state but false advertising can be considered illegal throughout the United States. At this time no lawsuits have been filed against Canary to the public’s knowledge but demands for full refunds based on false advertisement have become increasingly popular and a petition has even been created, demanding Canary removes their new subscription policy.
Now imagine that new car you purchased starts having air conditioning problems and won’t blow cool air in the middle of the summer. There was a problem with the compressor and because the dealership wouldn’t honor the warranty they initially promised, you have to fork-out $700 to keep your family comfortable. Or image, an intruder breaks into your home in the middle of the night and your family wakes up terrified and missing their valuables. Although you purchased a Canary home security camera for this exact occasion, they wouldn’t honor the free Night Mode or 24 hour viewing they initially promised and the police were subsequently unable to catch the man that terrorized your family and your home.
So while Canary may be redesigning their company functionality to better fit their competitor’s practices, the morality of bait-and-switch advertising is horrendous, especially when it comes to a person’s security.