Spotify offers Car Thing refunds as it faces lawsuit over bricking the streaming device

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Spotify is facing continued backlash over its decision to discontinue support for Car Thing, its in-car streaming device, announced earlier in May. The device will no longer work starting on December 9, 2024, the company said. On TikTok, Gen Z users are posting videos to express their discontent with Spotify’s move and its recommended actions — like switching to Android Auto or CarPlay. Often, they didn’t have access to built-in infotainment systems in their car in the first place, making them a target market for a dedicated player like Car Thing, the users note.

The streaming service’s in-car gadget hadn’t been out on the market long enough to make it obsolete. It launched in February 2022 and was discontinued later that same year but with promises to keep it operational for those who already bought units. Ahead of its launch, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek had suggested there was consumer demand for such a product, telling investors on an earnings call that more than 2 million users had signed up on the Car Thing waitlist in anticipation of its release.

Image Credits: Spotify

Though Spotify never shared official numbers, it’s likely that Car Thing underperformed or was just not worth continued investment in today’s tighter economic market. The latter saw Spotify laying off around 1,500 staffers late last year, for example, after cuts earlier in the year that had affected hundreds.

Car Thing users, however, don’t care about the company’s financial concerns; they just want their gadget to work, or at least be refunded for its $90 price tag.

That’s led to some trying to directly complain to Spotify via DMs on X with @SpotifyCares or through various Spotify emails shared on Reddit. By doing so, some users reported that Spotify offered them several months of a Premium subscription to make up for their loss, while others claimed they asked customer service and were told no one was being reimbursed.

Spotify tells TechCrunch that it has more recently instituted a refund process for Car Thing, provided the user has proof of purchase.

The ability to reach customer support was officially communicated to Car Thing users in a second email that went out on Friday of last week after the backlash over Car Thing’s discontinuation had grown. In it, Spotify directs users to the correct customer support link to reach out to the company. The email does not promise any refunds, however, but says users can reach out with questions.

While a refund may satisfy some portion of the user base that’s upset over Car Thing, many are still pleading with the company via TikTok videos and in the comments on Spotify’s TikTok posts to please not brick their device. (In fact, complaints about the Car Thing are now so common on Spotify’s videos that the algorithmically recommended search TikTok suggests on some videos is “what is the spotify car thing.”)

“SPOTIFY PLEASE SPARE ME 😭😭😭 I LOVE MY CAR THING,” wrote Carla, a TikTok user who goes by the handle @carlititica on the service.

“Sad,” wrote another user, @nikkilovestech. “It’s like they want people to use their phone which is distracting,” she wrote in the description of her video demoing a Car Thing mounted to her dash. In her video, she also commented on the e-waste that comes from discontinuing a product that still works “perfectly fine.”

Spotify’s headaches around Car Thing’s discontinuation are not over yet, despite the newly introduced — if not widely broadcast — refund process. The company is also facing a class action lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, which claims Spotify misled consumers by selling them a soon-to-be obsolete product and then not offering refunds, reports Billboard. The suit was filed on May 28.

Spotify cannot comment on the lawsuit, but a spokesperson shared the following statement about Car Thing:

The goal of our Car Thing exploration in the U.S. was to learn more about how people listen in the car. In July 2022, we announced we’d stop further production and now it’s time to say goodbye to the devices entirely. Users will have until December 9, 2024 until all Car Thing devices will be deactivated. To learn more about all of the ways you can continue to listen to Spotify in the car, check out For The Record, and Car Thing users can reach out to Customer Support with any questions:

Though the troubles around Car Thing won’t affect all of Spotify’s user base, the news comes at a time when users are already upset that they’re being asked to pay more for things they consider core to a music service, like access to lyrics, a feature Spotify recently paywalled. In addition to complaints over Car Thing, users are threatening to quit Spotify over the paid access to lyrics.

In addition, Spotify upped its subscription rates last year, and another increase is on its way in 2024, Bloomberg reported.

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