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Spotify faces lawsuit over broken Car Thing streaming device, starts offering refunds

Spotify is facing an ongoing backlash over its decision to stop supporting its in-car streaming device, the Car Thing, which was announced in early May. The company said the device will stop working from December 9, 2024. On TikTok, Gen Z users posted videos expressing their displeasure with Spotify’s move and its suggested actions, such as switching to Android Auto or CarPlay. Users noted that they typically can’t use built-in infotainment systems in their cars, making them a target market for dedicated players like the Car Thing.

The streaming service’s in-car device hasn’t been on the market long enough to make it obsolete. It launched in February 2022 and was discontinued later that year, but the service was promised to continue for users who had already purchased the device. Ahead of the launch, Spotify CEO Danie Ek said there was consumer demand for such a product, and told investors on an earnings call that more than 2 million users had signed up for the Car Thing waitlist in anticipation of its release.

Image Source: Spotify
Image Source: Spotify

While Spotify has never released official figures, in today’s tight economic market, Car Thing may not be performing well or worth investing in. For example, Spotify laid off about 1,500 employees late last year, and layoffs earlier this year affected hundreds of people.

Car Thing users, however, don’t care about the company’s financial problems; they just want their gadgets to work properly, or at least a refund on their $90 price tag.

This led some to try to complain to Spotify directly, either through DMs to @SpotifyCares on X or through various Spotify emails shared on Reddit. In doing so, some users reported that Spotify offered them a few months of Premium subscription to make up for their losses, while others claimed that they asked customer service and were told that no one was being compensated.

Spotify told TechCrunch that it recently created a refund process for Car Thing, as long as users can provide proof of purchase.

After the backlash against the discontinuation of Car Thing continued to grow, Spotify officially sent a second email to Car Thing users last week, telling them how to contact customer support. In the email, Spotify directed users to contact the company through the correct customer support link. However, this email did not promise a refund, but said that users could ask questions.

While the refunds may satisfy some users upset with Car Thing, many are still pleading with the company not to destroy their devices via TikTok videos and comments on Spotify’s TikTok posts. (In fact, complaints about Car Thing are now so prevalent in Spotify videos that TikTok’s algorithmically recommended search on some videos is “what is Spotify Car Thing.”)

“Spotify please leave me alone 😭😭😭 I love this thing about my car,” wrote TikTok user Carla, who goes by @carlititica.

“So sad,” wrote another user, @nikkilovestech. “It’s like they want people to use their phones, it’s a distraction,” she wrote in the description of a video demonstrating the dashboard-mounted Car Thing. In the video, she also commented on the e-waste generated by discontinuing a product that was still “in mint condition.”

Despite Spotify’s new (albeit less widely publicized) refund process, the troubles caused by the Car Thing’s discontinuation aren’t over for Spotify. The company is also facing a class-action lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, which alleges that Spotify misled consumers by selling them a soon-to-be obsolete product and then not offering refunds, Billboard reported.

Spotify could not comment on the lawsuit, but a spokesperson shared the following statement regarding Car Thing:

“Our goal in exploring Car Thing in the US was to learn more about how people listen to music in their cars. In July 2022, we announced that we would cease further production, and now it’s time to say goodbye to these devices once and for all. Users must deactivate all Car Thing devices by December 9, 2024. To learn more about all the ways to continue listening to Spotify in your car, check out For The Record. Car Thing users can contact customer support with any questions:”

While Car Thing’s troubles won’t affect all of Spotify’s user base, the news comes at a time when users are already unhappy about being asked to pay more for core features of the music service, such as lyric access, which Spotify recently put behind a paywall. In addition to complaints about Car Thing, users have threatened to quit Spotify over the requirement to pay for lyric access.

Additionally, Spotify raised its subscription fees last year and will raise them again in 2024, according to Bloomberg.

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