In 2016, tech industry veteran Jeff Reifman needed a security system for his Portland condo. After much searching, he eventually purchased the All-in-One home security system from New York-based Canary on Jet.com, in part because it didn’t have any additional monthly costs for features.
A little over a year later, Canary decided to move some previously free features behind a $10 per month paywall, according to a proposed class action lawsuit filed by Reifman and other Canary customers. The suit, filed last week in U.S. District Court in New York, claims the company deceived customers with offers of free features, and later pulled a “bait and switch” by charging for them.
Reifman and fellow plaintiffs Jonathan Berg, Julie Harley, Miguel Moreno and Connor and Arlene Van Gessel all bought home security products from Canary in recent years. In court documents, each said the company’s marketing of no additional fees beyond the cost of the device played a role in the decision to purchase. But that changed in October 2017, when several key features that were free, like the ability to watch previously recorded video later, moved to a membership program that cost $9.99 per month.
“Plaintiffs and other consumers purchased the Products reasonably believing that all key features included with their initial purchase would remain available without any future cost,” the lawsuit says. “Had Plaintiffs and other consumers known that Canary would remove the Product’s features and place them behind a paywall, they would not have purchased the Products or would have paid significantly less for the Products.”
Reifman and his fellow plaintiffs are far from the only Canary customers who were upset by the changes. At the time of the change, The Verge noted complaints from users on Twitter when the decision was made. Because of that backlash, where users lobbed the “bait and switch” accusation at Canary, the company restored some of the features to its free service a month later.
Canary makes a variety of security cameras and services. The company still offers several features at no cost, but as part of the $9.99/month Canary Membership program, users get extra capabilities such as two-way conversations through devices, unlimited video downloads, desktop streaming and more. GeekWire has reached out to Canary for comment and will update this post if we hear back.
Reifman is a Seattle-area writer, activist and former Microsoft program manager who has worked to spotlight what he calls the Redmond company’s “tax dodge.” He and his fellow plaintiffs are seeking class action status for their consumer protection lawsuit. They allege violations of laws in Washington, Oregon, California, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Illinois, their home states. The plaintiffs seek damages, attorneys fees and other costs related to the case.
Here’s the full complaint: