Beware the Internet of Things: Nest Thermostat Glitch Leaves Users in the Cold
So, a glitch in a software update to the Nest left users quite literally cold as their nest devices stopped working. Very irritating, and the nine-step, time consuming fix sounds quite awkward to say the least. But there’s more:
Making matters worse is the lack of recourse. Buried deep in Nest’s 8,000-word service agreement is a section called “Disputes and Arbitration,” which prohibits customers from suing the company or joining a class-action suit. Instead, disputes are settled through arbitration.As a 2015 investigative series in The New York Times illustrated, the use of arbitration clauses is becoming widespread.
Nest’s terms of service “are inherently unfair to consumers,” said Sonia K. Gill, a lawyer for civil justice and consumer protection at Public Citizen, a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C. The terms, she said, limit damages and specify that customers need to travel to San Francisco for arbitration. “Who can afford that?” she said.
Moreover, Ms. Gill noted, you have to agree to keep the terms of the arbitration confidential, meaning you can’t warn other consumers about potential flaws.
So, if a pipe bursts in your home because the thermostat stopped working, or if your grandmother falls ill because the heat shuts off in the middle of the night and she doesn’t have a micro USB cable, you can’t sue.
After last week’s freeze, I’m thinking of ditching my Nest. I haven’t decided on a replacement yet, but I may take a cue from Kent Goldman, a San Francisco resident I follow on Twitter who had a similar issue with his Nest in November.
After being put on hold with Nest’s technical support for over an hour, Mr. Goldman went to his nearest Ace Hardware store (while still on hold) and picked up an old-fashioned mechanical thermostat for about $25.
Sure, it doesn’t let you change the temperature through your smartphone. And it won’t email you monthly usage reports. But it isn’t vulnerable to bad software, and it doesn’t require a Wi-Fi connection.
Just because it can’t send email, doesn’t mean it’s useless 🙂