Music Business

Spotify disables ‘Car Thing’ without offeing refunds, owners join Class Action suit

Spotify is bricking its ‘Car Thing’ devices, leaving users without refunds for their purchased hardware. Keep reading to learn more about the controversy and what this decision means for Spotify customers.

Some ‘Car Thing’ owners are joining a new Class Action lawsuit against Spotify announced on Wednesday.

Attorneys working with would like to speak to New York, California, and Illinois residents who purchased Spotify’s “Car Thing” amid notices from the company announcing that the hardware would no longer work as of December 9, 2024.

UPDATE: Music marketer Michael Brandvold of the Music Biz Weekly podcast tells Hypebot: “I contacted Spotify support and they gave me a full refund. I simply had to provide them with the purchase receipt. They put up no resistance.”

by Timothy Geigner of Techdirt

And here we go again. It used to be that when you bought a thing, you owned the thing. You could do whatever you wanted with the thing, so long as you didn’t violate the law with the thing, because you owned the thing. And I recognize I’m using the word “thing” a lot here, but it’s with good reason. See, Spotify recently announced that it would be unilaterally bricking every “Car Thing” product it ever sold to customers. Yes, bricking them.

Spotify announced today that it’s bricking all purchased Car Things on December 9 and not offering refunds or trade-in options. On a support page, Spotify says:

“We’re discontinuing Car Thing as part of our ongoing efforts to streamline our product offerings. We understand it may be disappointing, but this decision allows us to focus on developing new features and enhancements that will ultimately provide a better experience to all Spotify users.”

Spotify has no further guidance for device owners beyond asking them to reset the device to factory settings and “safely” get rid of the bricked gadget by “following local electronic waste guidelines.”

Now, it’s not like there are a metric ton of these things out there. The Car Thing never really took off and mostly served as a niche product. Spotify stopped manufacturing them a year after they launched in late 2021, but it did continue to sell them for much longer than that. In fact, at the time Spotify ceased production, it slashed the price of the Car Thing almost in half, in theory to spur adoption. Adoption of a product that, barely two years later, will result in many more people having a relatively expensive paperweight for their troubles.

And as the quote above mentions, Spotify is not offering any kind of refund for the devices that they’re about to choose to break. If you bought a Car Thing a year or so ago for $50, you just lose out on that money and the product. And those who bought it are wondering why in the world these things are fit only for the landfill instead of Spotify opening the platform up to keep them useful.

A Spotify Community member going by AaronMickDee, for example, said:

“I’d rather not just dispose of the device. I think there is a community that would love the idea of having a device we can customize and use for other uses other than a song playback device.

Would Spotify be willing to maybe unlock the system and allow users to write/flash 3rd party firmware to the device?”

Worse yet, Spotify informed Ars Technica in a response to an inquiry that the whole point of the Car Thing was to “learn more about how people listen in the car.” If that’s the case, the company is essentially suggesting that it duped customers into paying for the pleasure of performing Spotify’s market research for it and then bricked those paying customers’ devices once the company was done with that whole thing.

So you don’t own what you’ve bought yet again. And not just for digital products, but for hardware, too, apparently.

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