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'Deceptive': FTC Shuts Down Bitcoin-Miner Company Butterfly Labs

The FTC alleged Butterfly Labs charged consumers for bitcoin-mining machines, and either delivered them so late that they were useless or didn't ship them at all.
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A federal court has shut down a company that allegedly charged customers for machines that would “mine” the virtual currency bitcoin, and either delivered the devices late or not at all. The order against Butterfly Labs came Tuesday at the request of the Federal Trade Commission.

The Bitcoin system is set up to offer a finite amount of the currency, released over time to "miner" computers that solve complicated math problems. As more bitcoins are released, the problems get harder.

Butterfly Labs began marketing BitForce machines — which ranged in price from $149 to $30,000, paid up front — for preorder in June 2012. But 20,000 customers hadn't received anything by September 2013, the FTC complaint alleges. Butterfly Labs unveiled a new miner called Monarch in August 2013, but as of last month Butterfly "had delivered few, if any, Monarch computers," the FTC said. In a statement, Butterfly called the FTC's action "heavy-handed" and said the company "literally is in the midst of shipping out completed products.” Butterfly has already shipped more than $33 million worth of machines, it said, and refunded $17 million in canceled orders.


— Julianne Pepitone