Saturday, January 7, 2012

Overly protected lawyers, or bad translation? The Jabra SP700 Speakerphone

Recently, eSarcasm resurrected an ITWorld article from June 2011 entitled "30 ridiculously dumb tech warning labels." In his preface, Raphael offers a possible explanation for the warnings that he encountered:

Our lawsuit-happy culture, you see, has resulted in companies going to extreme lengths to make sure they're protected. It's hard to blame 'em: Truth is, they never know who's going to do something dumb with their products and then sue them for the damage. The whole thing has really gotten out of hand -- and the realm of tech is no exception.

We've all seen these warnings, but the one that really caught my eye was number nine:

Seen on the case for Jabra's Drive 'N' Talk car Bluetooth speakerphone: "Never operate your speakerphone while driving."

This particular label won the 2010 Wacky Warning Labels award.

But I still couldn't believe it, until I found the manual (PDF) for another Jabra product.


Never operate your SP700 speakerphone while driving!

Significantly, this was labeled as the English-language edition of the guide - and perhaps that is part of the explanation. You see, Jabra® is a registered trademark of a company called GN Netcom A/S, which (according to Yahoo) is headquartered in Denmark. Now I have known a number of northern Europeans who speak very good English - but it's not perfect English. (For example, one burping European said, "I farted in my mouth.")

But after reading other material from Jabra, I suspect that it's lawyerese, rather than Danglish, that is to blame here. Jabra's US site contains the following warnings (among others):

Using the headset while operating a motor vehicle, motorcycle, watercraft or bicycle may be dangerous, and is illegal in some jurisdictions, just as use of this headset with both ears covered while driving is not permitted in certain jurisdictions. Check your local laws. Use caution while using your headset when you are engaging in any activity that requires your full attention. While engaging in any such activity, removing the headset from your ear or turning off your headset will keep you from being distracted, so as to avoid accident or injury. Do not take notes or read documents while driving.

Boy. If you only read the safety page text above, and never read the marketing pages, you'd almost think that the text above was written by someone who didn't want you to buy Jabra. However, it was written by people who DO want you to buy long as you can't sue them for using it.

Yet another example of a company fighting against itself. Remember Google vs. Google?
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