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Butterfly Labs Monarch miner announcement angers customers

(@davidgilson) | Published on August 19, 2013 at 15:16 GMT

Article updated on 27th August at 14:37 BST

Butterfly Labs has announced a new PCI bitcoin mining card, named Monarch, based on the new 28nm technology. Butterfly Labs claims the Monarch will achieve 600 GH/s and consume 350W. The release has courted controversy with customers who are still awaiting delivery of their longstanding 65nm-based products.

The Monarch has been optimised to work when connected to a PCIe slot, however, it also has a USB port, which allows it to be used with Windows and Linux computers and even Android devices. Butterfly Labs boasts that the card will achieve 600 Gigahashes per second (+/- 20%), and will cost $4,680 ($7.80 per GH/s), and consume 350 Watts (0.6 W per GH).

It's fair to say that Butterfly Labs has earned a poor reputation because of its consistently late deliveries. For example, its first-generation entry-level miner, the Jalapeño, was eventually delivered to customers six months after it was supposed to ship (promised November 2012, started shipping April 2013). The Bitforce 500 and Bitforce SC 60 were also released earlier this year, falling short of their projected specifications. Butterfly Labs is still struggling to keep up with its massive list of backorders, however, some customers are receiving new hardware:

Butterfly Labs makes a point of stating on the product page that this mining device will not be shipping any time soon, but "towards the end of the year". It further states that those not comfortable waiting for so long should not pre-order.

For those interested in the product, Butterfly Labs has an offer for customers who are waiting for 65nm miners to transfer their current orders and apply the credit towards the Monarch. The catch is that doing so will be subject to a 10% transfer fee.

This has understandably raised the ire of many existing customers:

Recent months have seen Butterfly Labs customers being refused refunds, which has further added to anxieties of those with large sums of money tied up in products that have not yet arrived.

For example, a Bitcoin forum user reported: "I just tried to get a refund and they refused. They should be tagged as a scammer as previously posted, especially now that they are refusing refunds (confirmed). They just refused mine in an email."

Then, on Butterfly Lab's forum, a user reported the following response from the company: "As stated on the order form, all sales are final. Unfortunately, we cannot give you a refund. We truly do appreciate your business."

There has even been the cancellation of a group-buy on the Bitcoin forum: "Ugh... I just read through the forum and the general consensus about this third BFL preorder is rather negative. I will stop this attempt of a group-buy before it even starts to minimize anger/grief/etc."

Further to the "all sales are final" position, Butterfly Labs is not accepting PayPal as a method of payment for the Monarch; instead, only taking bitcoin or bank transfers as payment. Both of these are irreversible payment methods.

We asked Butterfly Labs COO, Josh Zerlan, about the company's refund history and he told us: "Throughout that whole process, we gave customers the opportunity to cancel and get a full refund, culminating with a positive opt-in email where they had to agree that they understood we've screwed up the timeline and still want the product, otherwise we would cancel their order and refund their money, they wouldn't even have to do anything if they wanted a refund as we'd do it automatically."

Zerlan also explained the lack of PayPal as a payment option for the Monarch: "We do accept Paypal, just not on the Monarch. When you start doing Paypal transactions over a certain amount, it gets more complicated, which is why we elected not to do PayPal with the Monarch at it's nearly $5,000 price point. We still accept PayPal for all of our other products though."

What do you think about Butterfly Labs? Have you received your hardware yet or are you still waiting? How have you found its customer service? Let us know in the comments.

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