Bad Review Of IoT Device Prompts Disconnection Threat

The entrepreneur behind Garadget, a Web-connected garage door opener, has responded to a customer's bad review by saying he would refuse to allow the device to connect to the server.

The customer complained over the weekend in a post on Garadget's community board that an iPhone app for the device wasn't working. Denis Grisak, who launched Garadget last year, publicly responded by demanding that the customer return the device for a refund. "Your unit ...will be denied server connection," Grisak added.

Grisak told MediaPost today that his statement was "an overreaction to a rude comment in the community board."

He also said he allowed the connection, but that the customer was still in the "initial stage of the account setup and clearly hated the product."

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"At this point I wouldn't expect him keep the unit and actually install it in his garage," Grisak added.

Congress recently passed the Consumer Review Fairness Act, which aims to stop companies from squelching reviews. But that bill -- which outlaws standardized contracts that restrict reviews -- doesn't appear to cover this situation.

"The Consumer Review Fairness Act was deigned to reduce the ability of vendors to punish consumers for leaving bad reviews," says Santa Clara University law professor Eric Goldman, who testified to Congress in support of the measure.

He adds that the bill might have "a gap."

But he also says that bricking a product could violate numerous other laws -- particularly if doing so creates a safety concern.

"What they're doing is obviously a very individual response to situation," Goldman says, referring to Grisak. "But as a signal of how vendors can control our lives, and what we say, it's extremely troubling. It shows us the risk that we face as consumers."

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