1/ Unintended Tesla app purchases, explored.— Ted Stein (@tedstein) January 20, 2020
About a week and a half before the end of Q4 Tesla rolled out a new feature on their phone app: an upgrades tab.
Shortly after they rolled it out users began to complain about unintended purchases.
2/ A famous Tesla owner, with a large Twitter following in the tech community, was affected. He said he didn't mean to make the purchase, never intended to use the software, and was unable to get a refund.https://t.co/WTtlFxMzu9— Ted Stein (@tedstein) January 20, 2020
3/ He reached out to @TeslaService & they wrote back saying refunds are not allowed, as per policy. They implied that @nntaleb was just experiencing buyers remorse and that reversing the app purchase would be similar to tearing down an addition on a home. pic.twitter.com/aMEKiqwkEu— Ted Stein (@tedstein) January 20, 2020
4/ @nntaleb took to Twitter, as he promised he would, when the refund was denied.— Ted Stein (@tedstein) January 20, 2020
Perhaps due to @nntaleb's celebrity profile, Musk himself responded, apologized for the refund denial, said that was not right, and promised a fix.https://t.co/4J3UfZixLA
5/ So what is going on here?— Ted Stein (@tedstein) January 20, 2020
Are refunds for purchases against Tesla's policy?
Could the purchase have really been accidental?
Were others affected?
6/ I decided to explore. I requested a @tesla owner's credentials and installed the Tesla app on my phone.— Ted Stein (@tedstein) January 20, 2020
When I installed the Tesla app, Apple forced me to type in my password or use my fingerprint to authenticate. This is a common practice to prevent accidents. pic.twitter.com/DmfwSxZXTo
7/ I logged in to the app, verified there were no payment methods linked, and went to the upgrades screen.— Ted Stein (@tedstein) January 20, 2020
Amazingly, Tesla had already added $4,000 worth of software to my shopping cart. I did not click any button to add it. The checkbox is selected by default. pic.twitter.com/6mS95FOOIi
8/ I previously wrote a thread about Tesla's use of dark patterns on their website (but not in the EU, thanks to consumer friendly laws).— Ted Stein (@tedstein) January 20, 2020
As I mentioned in that thread, default selections are considered an abusive tactic that ethical companies avoid.https://t.co/HnC5Gmf1nu
9/ The default selection makes accidental purchases much more likely. Perhaps Tesla is just bad at UI or perhaps they did this on purpose to encourage accidental purchases.— Ted Stein (@tedstein) January 20, 2020
Given how they use dark patterns everywhere the law allows (and only there), I suspect the latter.
10/ So the software was added to my shopping cart without me actually adding it. You still have to click the purchase button.— Ted Stein (@tedstein) January 20, 2020
Oddly, there was some text that doesn't even look like a button … but is actually the purchase button! pic.twitter.com/e40qjN2wTx
11/ If you click the button then you are taken to a confirmation screen. As mentioned above, it is standard practice to require a password for purchases like this to prevent accidents. Apple even had me do that with a free app.— Ted Stein (@tedstein) January 20, 2020
Here is a screen shot of a $1.29 purchase. pic.twitter.com/eXNyMROj4t
12/ After adding $4,000 worth of software to my shopping cart automatically, what does Tesla's validation screen look like. Am I required to authenticate as per standard practice in such situations?— Ted Stein (@tedstein) January 20, 2020
No! There is no validation other than the click of a button! pic.twitter.com/563dnfWXaL
13/ If you don't lock your screen before putting your phone in your pocket, bizarrely common, then an accidental purchase is not only possible … it is likely!— Ted Stein (@tedstein) January 20, 2020
I believe this is by design. Tesla is better at apps than they are at cars, software-wise.https://t.co/kFkYBQu0TF
14/ What about refunds?— Ted Stein (@tedstein) January 20, 2020
Musk implied that the issue was ease of refunds.
It turns out there is a policy. To deny refunds.
Please note the additional dark pattern here: the refund denial text is dark text on a blackground. The hardest to read on the entire screen. pic.twitter.com/f58338xRut
15/ How common are these accidental purchases?— Ted Stein (@tedstein) January 20, 2020
Very. Even Tesla's proxy PR/IR website, @ElectrekCo, admits that accidental purchases have been common. There are dozens of people on forums (huge Tesla fans!) saying similar.https://t.co/AWfBAzdQv5
16/ To summarize:— Ted Stein (@tedstein) January 20, 2020
Just before the end of the fiscal quarter, Tesla rolled out an app update that is, at best, incredibly irresponsibly designed. Many people accidentally sent Tesla thousands of dollars. Tesla does not offer refunds except, apparently, to famous people.
18/ If you are interested in my thread on Tesla's use of dark patterns you can find it here.— Ted Stein (@tedstein) January 21, 2020
19/ Update: this is from the @ElectrekCo article linked above.— Ted Stein (@tedstein) January 21, 2020
I have seen the config files inside of Teslas. The highlighted portion is a complete and total lie.
Enabling these features are just flags. It is not only possible for Tesla to remove these features, it is easy. pic.twitter.com/zAX09wo1cQ
20/ Second update:— Ted Stein (@tedstein) January 21, 2020
There is a dedicated hash tag to Tesla refund issues. It seems Tesla likes to hold on to customer money as long as they can or at least does not prioritize speedy and consistent customer refunds.#TeslaRefundIssues