Liability of selling circuits online

Discussion in 'General Electronics Chat' started by Mattosx, Sep 8, 2012.

  1. Mattosx

    Thread Starter New Member

    Aug 15, 2012
    10
    1
    Hi there,

    What is the liability of selling kit like electronics online? Whether unassembled or prebuilt for hobbyists?

    I know there is liability insurance, but for a small time side thing that would be impractical. Then again I don't want to get sued for $50,000 for a $50 board.

    Now there could be disclaimers, but do they really work?

    The boards are not anything crazy and are safe, but I worry about a user doing something stupid and passing the buck.

    Any thoughts on the matter?

    Thanks,

    Matt
     
  2. #12

    Expert

    Nov 30, 2010
    16,262
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    "The boards are not anything crazy", but the customers can be!

    There are lots of jokes about the rediculous disclaimers that are required on packaging to ward off idiots with lawyers. Just think of the McDonalds classic, "I bought hot coffee and put the paper cup between my legs as I drove away. When I got clumsy and spilled the coffee, it was hot, so I felt burned. Please give me thousands of dollars."

    OK. Call me paranoid.
     
  3. Sparky49

    Active Member

    Jul 16, 2011
    834
    417
    Written disclaimers are enough, but put in a few measures to make sure. If the worst happens and you are taken to court, you'll have to not only prove that disclaimers exist, but that the user must have been aware of them.

    Perhaps printing a labek which says " By opening this bag/box you agree to follow and abide by our terms and conditions, which can be found on www. xxx.xxx.x..x.x" and so on.
     
  4. stanman11

    Member

    Nov 23, 2010
    230
    4
    just right a terms of agreement saying they shall not alter or do anything its not intended for. If such an action happens we are not responible for your dumbass and your warrenty will be breached


    but do a whole page or so on what your not liable for and be buying this you are agreeing and have read terms of use.

    They sell gas to miners who light themselves on fire because its funny. so sure why not right?
     
  5. Mattosx

    Thread Starter New Member

    Aug 15, 2012
    10
    1
    That's a good idea about the sticker on the bag.

    I was also thinking of also etching on the board. "Use at your own risk. Sse disclaimer at website.com"
     
  6. #12

    Expert

    Nov 30, 2010
    16,262
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    Then there is the idea of forming a limited liability corporation so that's all you have to lose if somebody sticks a soldering up their nose and sues you for cosmetic surgery. Are you planning on doing enough business to afford that kind of protection?

    It's not simple. It often doesn't make sense. CYA
     
  7. Mattosx

    Thread Starter New Member

    Aug 15, 2012
    10
    1
    Unfortunaely, I'd make tons more working at mcdonalds during the course of the year. It's more of a hobbyist side project than forming my own personal headquarters ...
     
  8. #12

    Expert

    Nov 30, 2010
    16,262
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    Maybe you could spill some coffee on yourself while you're there?:D
     
  9. kubeek

    AAC Fanatic!

    Sep 20, 2005
    4,670
    804
    Then there is the idea of not selling stuff to people from the u.s. of America, because their law system is flawed. Because even if you write on the box "do not dry cats in this microwave" someone will sue you beacuse they dried their hamster and it died. Even though in normal world the guy who did it would be sued for animal cruelty and not the maker of the micorwave for not covering for all stupid users.
     
  10. Mattosx

    Thread Starter New Member

    Aug 15, 2012
    10
    1
    You mean I can't sue paper mate for using their pens to gouge out my eyes? Eeeeeek.

    It discouraging I know I can make something useful and well priced for hobbyist, but am reluctant because I could get sued over anything.
     
  11. absf

    Senior Member

    Dec 29, 2010
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    Last edited: Sep 9, 2012
  12. takao21203

    Distinguished Member

    Apr 28, 2012
    3,577
    463
    Something like that is enough:

    PCBs are not designed for nuclear, medical, aviation or life support unless explicit clearance is negotiated. In addition, professional in-field testing is required for these areas of application.

    .....

    because....

    if people buy things BUT are actually not able to understand a relavant and essential condition, they have a right for more or less nothing.

    Customers always have the obligation to make themselves familiar with such conditions of use.

    if....

    on the other hand, the customer is able to understand the situation that the product is not designed for use inside a nuclear plant "just off the shelf", in most cases you can take as granted they won't use it for animals drying either.

    for the few remaining cases....

    send them nice, friendly but unmisunderstandable letters of cease and desist.


    However....

    it is important to make sure your circuit can not catch fire or cause fire, explosions, or cause accidents in cases it suddenly fails.

    There is something like accepted industry standards, and something like "sub-standard". Sub-standard circuits really do explode (means they just make a pop noise nothing dramatic), they even catch fire in some rare cases, and they do fail prematurely.

    For instance if you sell a relay-based timer, make sure the relay is not of a bad making (so it would latch after a few months), and the manual main switch as well could be very bad quality, actually may stop working after some months as well.

    There are two things basically you can do:

    1. Long-time testing
    2. Over-dimensionating of critical components

    and of course, only use new components from running production, of good quality.

    If you sell display PCBs (I have done it), and you don't use resistors, it is really essential to perform a long-time test. If you don't test, there is always the remote possibility things may burn out.

    Also clean the PCB carefully, and take care with the soldering.
     
  13. Mattosx

    Thread Starter New Member

    Aug 15, 2012
    10
    1
    I have had similar circuits run for lonnnng periods of time without any issue at all.

    My circuit is a specific use LED driver meant for entertainment.
     
  14. takao21203

    Distinguished Member

    Apr 28, 2012
    3,577
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    Yes I understand that. It is more a meaning like for instance you use a new chip for off-line power supply, and you derivate from the design suggestions quite a bit. If you just rely on built-in margins, it depends, but it might become a kind of a gamble.

    You need to understand what you are doing quite well + you need sufficient experience + you need to perform a test with the exact components which are actually used in the kit.

    You need to inform the user of the intended area of application, how to install and use it, and you need to spell "things not to do". Sometimes this is just a line "Only use for intended area of application".

    There is such a spelling in the manual of my welding transformer.

    When I use it not for welding, but for SMPS circuits, I am clearly violating against the user manual. In this case however, I know what I am doing, and I have full control over it.

    Batteries by the way are always a problem- people may try to recharge them, throw them into fire, they may become ingested by dogs and who knows what.

    You need to understand what kind of people will use your stuff. Is there the possibility of exposure to children or the possibility the circuit may cause harm to anyone without access to the user manual? Take precaution of such situations, however absurd they might be.
     
  15. Mattosx

    Thread Starter New Member

    Aug 15, 2012
    10
    1
    I now feel like I am giving soldering guns to toddlers with all this talk :-(
     
  16. tester272001

    New Member

    Aug 24, 2012
    18
    0
    Just an update on that McDonalds one... Very few people know that the reason the coffee was SOOO hot was due to McDonalds actually discreminating against OLD people. A friend of mine is a lawyer and he explained to me that McDonalds kep the coffee way higher in temperature to make the coffee too HOT when ingesting it. It makes people not want another cup. Hence they could preven older folks from congregating and chatting it up (wasting precious table space that buying customers could be using). I know it sounds crazy but thats the story I got. I felt the same way as most people that somone wout get thousand of $ for spilling coffee on THEMSELEVES! But if the coffee was a "normal" temp it would not have scalded the woman as badly as it did. Quite an interesting story. Not an ending I ever wuld have imagined.... But laywers do have good imaginations! :D
     
  17. stanman11

    Member

    Nov 23, 2010
    230
    4
    asl long as it states "use of this product other then what it is attended for is forbidden"
    or something along the line. Then you should be good. thats like Tags your it Quincy no tag backs infiniti!.
     
  18. Sensacell

    Well-Known Member

    Jun 19, 2012
    1,128
    266
    Don't worry about it until you are making lots of money.

    Lawyers are greedy, they will not waste any time bothering you unless they smell the cash.

    As sad and pathetic our legal system has become, the logic of greed is the one predictable variable in the equation.

    Don't let fear stop you from doing anything.
     
    absf and #12 like this.
  19. #12

    Expert

    Nov 30, 2010
    16,262
    6,769
    That's a reasonable answer. Lawyers won't work for free. If you don't smell like money, you aren't big enough to sue. Just don't risk your home, if you have one. That's worth money!
     
  20. JohnInTX

    Moderator

    Jun 26, 2012
    2,341
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    Two good inputs. In most cases its true... While there are plenty of storefront lawyers that are hungry enough to go after you for a solder splash on the rug they'll lose interest when they actually have to go to the courthouse as will their clients when it becomes a pay as you go case instead of contingency. It probably would never happen. If it did, that's when you hire a lawyer to file challenges that make their case much more expensive to pursue.

    That said, from a strictly paranoid sense, what you have is on the line. In practice, you'd probably have to screw up big time to lose a big one.

    There are books and legal resources galore on the web. Why not take a look at them to reach your own comfort level?
     
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