There are plenty of smart home security cameras out there, and it can be hard to differentiate between the bunch to figure out which one is best for you. Jeff Reifman of Portland, Oregon was looking for the right camera for his home and stumbled on Canary, a security startup that offered a camera with the promise of no monthly fees or subscriptions. Then, according to Reifman, the company started charging a monthly fee for features that were once free. Now he and a group of other consumers are suing.
In a class-action lawsuit filed by Reifman and other Canary customers in the United States District Court in New York, the company is accused of pulling a bait and switch. In court documents, the consumers claim they purchased Canary devices that promised no additional fees other than the cost of buying the device. That changed come October 2017, when several formerly free features required a monthly payment to access. That included the ability to watch previously recorded videos.
“Plaintiffs and other consumers purchased the Products reasonably believing that all key features included with their initial purchase would remain available without any future cost,” the lawsuit says. “Had Plaintiffs and other consumers known that Canary would remove the Product’s features and place them behind a paywall, they would not have purchased the Products or would have paid significantly less for the Products.”
In a blog post written by Reifman last year, he claims the sudden decision to put security features behind a paywall essentially rendered the camera useless. He was no longer able to access more than a “preview” of prior recordings, and a night mode feature that made it possible to see action in the house after dark was also shut down. According to Reifman, without paying a $120 annual fee to once again have access to those elements, the cameras were little more than expensive paperweights.
Canary does offer some features for free still, including 30-second video clips after motion is detected, one day video history, and 24/7 live check-ins. For the full video clips, 30 days of saved footage, and a heap of other features like two-way conversations through the camera, users have to pay a $10 per month fee for Canary membership. Canary has not yet commented publicly about the lawsuit.