Are We Customers or Investors or Donors?


#1

I have a critical question to ask. Who should be trusted to assess the risk to new Librem 5 phone purchasers going forward? In a traditional business, there is always accountability at appropriate places within management and law. Crowdfunding appears to bypass the traditional SEC protections. In a sense, we are all mini-qualified-angel-investors, each taking their own percentage of the risk. But even an angel-investor can pull the plug in most cases, when it comes to releasing more funds going forward if the right questions aren’t answered satisfactoraly by management. Everyone seems to have the best of intentions here. But sometimes, good intentions are not enough. Other than the channels of communication (which are questionable now), there appear to be no checks and balances available here in the case of the release of this new phone. I waited until the company committed to a release date, to make my investment/purchase. That is why I expect to be in Evergreen and not in Aspen (less risk, less reward). I don’t mind waiting for the phone. I am trusting the terms of my credit card transaction and the additional protections from my credit card provider agreement with me, to protect my purchase.

At this point, I want to understand the checks and balances better. If Purism misses (for the most part) its first shipping window, I would like to see an independent third party manage all of the funds from new purchase transactions of the Librem 5 going forward at that point. An escrow account could be established to collect all new credit card purchase funds, to distribute payments of company expenses, to assess risks based on candid reports from management, and to represent the interests of new phone purchasers going forward at that point. This might fill the gap where there are not regulated stock sales nor qualified investments (a legal status of the investment itself), but instead unregulated crowdsourcing. This isn’t skeptisism nor negative thinking. It’s just good business. I want Purism to succeed. If they miss their first shipping window, perhaps some oversight would be appropriate. This should not impede the operations of any viable business. If they want me to make a donation or to please wait longer, they might want to start telling us what is really going on here, and soon… everything, candidly, now. Donors are typically generous. Investors tend to be more self-interested, and to expect to have certain rights and protections in-place. Customers just want their phones. By how they communicate, Purism gets to decide who they want to deal with, donor or investor or customer. But donors have a right to receive candid and detailed status reports. Irrespective of that, oversight of business operations might offer some credibility that Purism does not currently benefit from.


#2

I can only talk for myself, but I certainly am not a donor.
Until the fund raising mark was crossed to build the device, I would not have been a customer as delivery was not certain. But I think I ordered the phone after that boundary was crossed. Therefore I have always been a customer. This means that I expect to be supplied with a working phone no matter what it takes and I don’t expect to have to provide further support. What I am open to is the possibility of delays given the monumental task. Some people could say they were investors before they became customers. I think they get first rights for the chance they took.

No matter who we are, Purism needs to take a look at how Pinephone communicates and learn real fast, because Purism is clearly outclassed on that front. Having said that, I think purism has set out standards that nobody has attempted before. And when you get a whole lot of smart computer people to team up, the chances are that their extreme intelligence is slanted away from the social engineering that other groups cope well with. Perhaps that is how we know we have the right people on the job! They just need one more person suited to that task.


#3

I think it is a matter of splitting hairs, that while maybe important to some, is of no importance to me. I agree with most of Purism’s purpose, and so the money was a investment/donation, I have every confidence I’ll get a phone, but even if I didn’t, so long as Purism explained the situation and tried to make it right, I’d be ok.

The industry needs more companies who are trying to do brave things. Investors want assurances they’ll see their money back, and as such make compromises on visions to achieve that.

I’m happy Purism didn’t want any part of that.


#4

I really don’t get why people think they can make claims like this.

The situation is pretty simple. You are a customer who bought a product which has yet to be released ( pre-order ). Missing deadlines, shipping dates or perhaps receiving not enough communications (to your likings) does not change any of your rights as a customer.

As with any pre-order you have two options:

  • Wait for your product
  • Ask for a refund

As soon as you have received your product and it does not meet the specifications as advertised you have the right to return your product.

Trust me you are in no way an angel investor. If you hire someone to do your bathroom and you will have to pay a month upfront for materials etc you are also not an investor and you also have no additional claims or whatever.


#5

Exactly my thoughts. Everybody has all the rights of a customer. This might be a difference from classic crowd funding.

OTOH, if I’d view myself merely as customer, if never have bought a phone for $599, let alone $699. Naturally, the more one adopts a mindset of an investment in a non-dystopian future, the more they are okay with “it’s done when it’s done” and relaxed with delays.


#6

Are We Customers or Investors or Donors?

Yes.


#7

Customers, we can request our money back as has been done by some already. Investors and donors generally cannot do this only withhold future funding.


#8

As others (@Caliga @rogro82) have said, we’re customers who pre-ordered (until recently) a non-existent product. High risk, high reward. And while meeting the funding goal gives additional confidence, plenty of Kickstarter vaporware has been fully funded. The reality isn’t as clear cut, but from a legal standpoint, we’re customers.

As for the oversight, it seems you want to impose restrictions on how they do business if they don’t make their shipping window. For example, if you have some sort of oversight committee, wouldn’t that imply they would have to have approval for certain actions? Who would manage the escrow? Kickstarter (hard pass)? And taking a step back, they have a board of directors (which advises and provides at least internal accountability), they have investors (I think I remember seeing an article or news release that they had acquired additional funding. Building a phone is expensive) who are also expecting an ROI (not just a phone). So there are processes and oversight involved in the process already.

From the bits and pieces we’ve seen, it’s trending in the right direction. Working phone. Working apps. Maybe we don’t have the spinning rims or flashing lights, but it’s there. Be patient, and if they don’t make the shipping window, either wait a little longer, or ask for a refund. I don’t think they’ll miss though.


#9

Also I would advise anyone before entering a contract ( e.g. when ordering products online ) to atleast know your own legal position. As with many other activities you participate in, you are somewhat obligated to know the laws, rules and your rights and it is pretty hard to do so without knowing what you have agreed upon.

Depending on the origin of sales your rights may vary, but i guess the following will give you the basics for any US citizen:

And directly copied from the “Checkout” page where you placed your order:

Return policy

  • If, for any reason, you want to cancel your order before it was shipped, we will issue a full refund.
  • If there is a defective hardware component, we’ll send you a replacement part or a new product unit free of charge (see Warranty #2 and #3).
  • If you want to return a product that doesn’t have any hardware issues, we’ll charge a 10% restocking fee. We accept these returns within 30 days of delivery.

#10

Legally we are just customers who preordered a product. We can get our money back if we want it, but we don’t have a legal right to more information. Convention, however, holds that crowdfunding campaigns should release regular updates to convince customers to not withdraw their pre-orders.

We feel like investors because we are helping to finance the development of the Librem 5. Purism has issued private stocks and reportedly did take out a loan, but its primary means of financing the development of new products has been crowdfunding and it charges higher prices for its products, so the customers who preorder are investing in the development of a new product, but we don’t have the rights of investors who buy stocks or bonds or banks who give loans.

If thousands of us decide to demand our money back, however, we could cause the bankruptcy of Purism, so we do have more power over Purism than over an ordinary tech company. Due to its SPC charter and its mission of promoting user digital rights, Purism will have a hard time trying to get financing by venture capital or by issuing public stock. Plus, the public pressure to make a profit for stock holders or venture capitalists can also undermine Purism’s mission.

People who watched Gardiner’s videos on the Librem 5 say that Bluetooth and the cameras don’t yet work. I would assume that Purism thinks that the Bluetooth and camera problems will be solved shortly. See the latest video.

As a computer programmer who has worked on product releases in the past, I know that unexpected problems often arise, especially when dealing with new hardware, and it often takes far longer than expected to fix them. Purism only has roughly 20 developers and it is trying to also prepare the Librem One services and PureOS store, plus the next generation of Librem 13/15, so its staff is likely overwhelmed at this point.

As customers eagerly awaiting the Librem 5, we are chomping at the bit, and demanding to know what is happening, but making these demands won’t help Purism get the Librem 5 out the door any faster, and only distract the Purism staff who should be focused on solving the issues.

As a programmer who has worked on both microcontroller code and web software, I can tell you that it is often impossible to tell someone how long it will take to solve a problem. You think it will take 2 days, but it might end up taking two weeks or even two months. You often go through a very frustrating series of trial and error, and you just have to try lots of different hardware settings until you figure out what works. Purism probably doesn’t have a developer who is an expert at Bluetooth and cameras, and it is probably going back and forth with engineers at Redpine Signals, NXP and the company that makes the image sensors, trying to figure out how to solve the problems it has encountered.

I have looked at the progress Purism has been making in terms of the Qemu images for the Librem 5 and the commits that Purism has made to the Linux kernel and at https://source.puri.sm/Librem5, so I’m not worried, because I can see that Purism is making solid advances in the code. I have seen crowdfunding projects fail before, but all the evidence that I can see shows me that this project is succeeding and we just need to be patient to let the Purism developers do their jobs.

You can get a good idea about what is being worked on by counting the number of commits on the different projects at https://source.puri.sm/Librem5. Also read my post about why Purism has to be more careful about what it says publicly about the Librem 5, compared to what PINE64 can say publicly about its PinePhone.


#11

“Are We Customers or Investors or Donors?”
Legal and technical considerations aside, I am happy to consider myself an investor. An investor in a world just a little bit less dystopian, with a little less spying, a little less coercion.

I think it would be naive to consider oneself as simply a customer in any crowdfunding arrangement for a product that does not yet exist. That arrangement is by definition high risk, and with no guarantee of success.


#12

This is true. i know it also from my own experience.

In some situations, like meetings with your boss (depending on the kind of boss you have), you just have to pretend that it is possible to give a decent estimate of how long time something will take, while in reality you have no idea. It could end up being solved a lot quicker, or taking 100 times longer than the wild guess you came up with.