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Smart Home: Consumers demand right to "analog living"

Wednesday, September 6th, 2017 | Gadgets

The Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverband (VZBV) calls for better legal and technical protection for users of networked household products. "There is a need for uniform technical standards so that consumers are not tied to a provider, and it must be ensured that the devices are safe and that consumers are legally protected," said VZBV CEO Klaus Müller with a view to the growing range of so- Applications at this year's IFA. In a 13-page background paper the consumer protectionists state "urgent need for action".

According to this, there are currently "promises that are overlaid on the market, which in reality can not be realized or even intransparent bundle offers". In part, the prices for the promised additional benefit are clearly too high. In addition, there were "new challenges for liability, warranty, compatibility, IT security, data security and data protection".
Gaps in the learning of learning systems
The consumer protection system is characterized by the appearance of a highly complex "smart" home where users can no longer safely say "whether the information generated by the digital product originates from the user of the system or from third parties or was created by the product itself." This could lead to problems if the refrigerator ordered separately in the supermarket.
This could lead to liability gaps if a learned behavior of the software was not foreseeable. "Contractual warranty claims are dependent on the fact that learning is acknowledged as a defect in a particular case, and that consumers must prove that the defect already existed at the time of purchase and that it did not arise subsequently, for example, through the interaction with other IT components" , states in the paper.

Update for the entire lifetime
The example of the Gardena Smart Garden System shows that such damage can happen today. By a server crash even the locally stored irrigation plans could be deleted, so that during the vacation the plants in the house or garden could dry up. Gardena referred to the "usual legal provisions regarding warranty, warranty and product liability" at the request of Golem.de. If there are users who would have suffered damage and claimed, they should contact the company in order to clarify the individual case.
The VZBV also criticizes the fact that interoperability between the devices is not always ensured due to different standards, interfaces and processes. At the time, consumers would have to inform themselves comprehensively about compatible products before the purchase and to bring forward confidence that "their" system would prevail in the market or be compatible with new systems. For security reasons it is necessary "that providers of smart devices must be obliged to provide at least security-relevant updates for the entire life of the product without additional costs". Otherwise there is the danger that the useful life of long-life household appliances such as washing machines or refrigerators could be limited by this.


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