Breaking Down the Butterfly Labs FTC Complaints Data

We dig into the data released along with 283 complaints to the FTC by Butterfly Labs customers worldwide.

AccessTimeIconMay 17, 2014 at 10:25 a.m. UTC
Updated Sep 14, 2021 at 2:07 p.m. UTC
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Customers in 24 countries have made 283 complaints to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) against Kansas-based mining equipment maker Butterfly Labs since 2012, as we reported earlier this week.

Since detailed information about notable companies in the bitcoin economy is thin on the ground, CoinDesk wrangled the data on two dimensions – geography and order value – to see what it could tell us.

A commanding 73% of complaints to the FTC came from US customers, most being from California, New York and Florida. Customers from Kansas, the company's home state, were absent from the list.

The complaints range across one and a half years from September 2012 through April 2014. Of the 283 complaints the FTC received, excluding one, 260 of them had an order value. The excluded item had an extraordinarily high order value of $30m and also didn't have a transaction date, so has been left out of the calculations.

The FTC data show that the order value attached to each complaint rose sharply last July and continued climbing rapidly through the autumn months, hitting about $950,000 at the end of November. This coincides with bitcoin's price surge that started in August when 1 BTC was worth about $100 and peaked in December when its value had rocketed to more than $1,000.

The cumulative order value of Butterfly Labs products in the data set is just over $1m.

The pie chart below shows how much is at stake for each disgruntled Butterfly Labs customer. Almost all their orders are valued under $5,000. Of those, the majority are worth less than $2,500.

There are always outliers, though. One Australian customer placed an order for three 'mini rigs', which cost about $30,000 each with an additional $588 in shipping costs. That's $90,873, all in.

"We were very surprised by the data," said Butterfly Labs' vice president of e-commerce and marketing, Jeff Ownby. "We have never been contacted by the FTC regarding any complaints it has received."

Ownby said his company analysed the data and concluded that it is an outdated picture of customer satisfaction.

Ownby said this was because the majority of complaints were filed before the bulk of its products were shipped on 1st Oct last year. Some 63% of the FTC complaints were filed before 1st October last year, after which 78% of its product shipped.

"We believe the issues raised [...] are largely a rehash of stale complaints that are no longer valid," he said. "It is our strong belief that the vast majority of the customers with delivery issues have been supplied with their miners. Other issues, related to pricing or refunds, are likely to be similarly resolved by now."

Image via MIT Opencourseware / Flickr

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