'Smart' Home Platform Wink Changes The Deal, Suddenly Imposes Subscription Fees

from the nickel-and-dime dept

Time and time again we've highlighted how in the modern era you don't really own the hardware you buy. In the broadband connected era, firmware updates can often eliminate functionality promised to you at launch, as we saw with the Sony Playstation 3. And with everything now relying on internet connectivity, companies can often give up on supporting devices entirely, often leaving users with very expensive paperweights as we saw after Google acquired Revolv.

And with the world shifting toward a "service as a subscription" model for everything, the products you buy can also suddenly cost you far more than the original value proposition suggested. Users who spent money to outfit their home with hardware from Wink learned this the hard way, when the company suddenly announced users would need to start paying a $5 per month subscription fee if they wanted the company's "smart" home products to keep working.

According to a company blog post, users who don't pay the fee will "no longer be able to access your Wink devices from the app, with voice control or through the API," and all automations will be disabled on May 13. The blog post also attempts to explain that because the company doesn't rampantly monetize your personal data (something it's routinely hard for consumers to verify), the fee is necessary to keep the lights on:

"Wink has taken many steps in an effort to keep your Hub’s blue light on, however, long term costs and recent economic events have caused additional strain on our business. Unlike companies that sell user data to offset costs associated with offering free services, we do not. Data privacy is one of Wink’s core values, and we believe that user data should never be sold for marketing or any purpose."

Granted until late last week, "mo monthly fees" was part of the company's marketing pitch:

Users who spent significant money on the Wink smart home platform under the promise of "no monthly fees" were given just seven days to decide if they wanted to pay the subscription, or deal with the headache of finding an entirely new smart home platform (during a pandemic, no less). Given they're not seeing refunds in the face of this head fake, many aren't particularly amused or impressed:

Reports had suggested that the company had been having trouble paying its employees since last fall. Given the added economic strain from the pandemic, it's possible that the company might not be operational down the road, meaning users will get bilked first by added fees, then potentially lose functionality anyway should the company fall apart completely. It's yet another shining example of how dumber technology often remains the smarter option in a world where your IOT product value equation and functionality can pivot on a dime, often for the worse.

Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: based, false advertising, iot, no monthly fees, ownership, smart devices, subscription
Companies: wink


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Thread


  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 May 2020 @ 1:19pm

    Re:

    Charging money directly contradicts their advertising, and we can expect this to end with a strongly-worded warning from the FTC that they'll be in trouble if they do this again (which they won't, because they'll be dead by then).

    It is nevertheless unwise of customers to buy a product that requires a continuing subscription. What happens when the terms change in a way that does not directly contradict their advertising? Maybe they'll require you to agree to waive your class action rights, send them a scan of your government ID, only sue in person in Alaska, whatever.

    Or maybe the company will simply lose interest in this "old" product and shut down the servers you depend on, or will forget about it when they get bought out, or will go bankrupt. Which happens all the time with this type of product. I'll bet there are more defunct server-dependent products from 5 years ago than there are still-working ones.


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Special Affiliate Offer

Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Recent Stories
.

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it
Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.