selling kits

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supah
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selling kits

Post by supah »

Hi all -

I thought a great way to give back to the 18 watt community would be to start a small online business offering some kits. . I don't want to divulge too much but I have a question, which is this - is there any legal danger behind making a step by step PDF instruction manual to distribute on the site? Is there any reason to hesitate in doing this ? If it's too much of a legal issue I may just have to provide layouts, schematics and Bill of Parts.

pat
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timbo_93631
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Post by timbo_93631 »

There is a lenghty thread on this topic over at weber forums. Has some good info. http://www.weberorders.com/forum/index.php?topic=2985.0
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guitarmike2107
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Post by guitarmike2107 »

Heres my opinion….

Yes giving a step by step manual could open yourself up for problems, I think S2 or one of the other kit suppliers had an issue with this. If you supplied a manual with a kit it would need to be very well documented and you would need to think about every stupid little thing a first time builder could do wrong.

The first 10 pages would have to be warning and instruction pages!!

You could probably have a build “example” on your webpage, but when selling kits stipulate that you do not provide specific build instructions or training and that the kit builder must be “competent” with the skills required to work on a tube amp or enlist a competent person to build the kit/advise. i.e. provide some disclaimer…

Also selling a kit of parts does not constitute selling an appliance that meets American UL or European CE mark requirements, i.e. the end builder must be able to build and test the final appliance to ensure it operates correctly and is safe before using it in a manner that may endanger the user or those around them. I imagine that if you tell them how to do this then you are taking some responsibility for the appliance.

Since you are thinking about selling kits, then you should probably enlist a solicitor to get some advise about possible legal action and perhaps also arrange some business liability insurance. 8O

HTH - Goodluck

Mike
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Post by zaphod_phil »

It seems that in the USA, no matter how many disclaimers you may have, if somebody zaps or burn themselves they can still sue you. Steven Scott aka s2 went out of the kit business because of an issue caused by one of his customers. He then started up Category 5, so I guess it ended up OK in the end. Chis Hurley of Doberman Amps also sells kits as bags of parts with no instructions, no drawings, no layouts. All the docs and support needed are on the AX84.com BBS. AFAIK other US-based kit vendors are walking on the thin ice of risk. The other big challenge is being able to buy in components, ship everything out to customers on time, while also answering hundreds of e-mails, and staying profitable with a healthy cash flow. That's where others have crashed and burned in the past.
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tinisuta
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Post by tinisuta »

concerning the CE mark:
I guess any appliance manufactured in Europe must comply with CE requirements
1. However, must each appliance be CE-certified by a recognized certification company ?
2. Or is a self-written statement indicating that the applicance is CE-compliant enough ? Knowing that in case a customer sends the manufacturer to court, failure to comply with CE-specs will be considered as a fault.

Practically, I have recently asked a boutique amp-maker if his amps are CE-certified. He answered that the high level of customization of each of his amps makes it impossible to certify each amp, but he agreed to issue a written document stating that his amps comply with CE-requirements. Is that sufficient ?
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Post by guitarmike2107 »

I will provide comment, but bare in mind I am a stickler on this as I have the 60065 standard.
tinisuta wrote:concerning the CE mark:
I guess any appliance manufactured in Europe must comply with CE requirements
I think the requirement is that any appliance put on the EU Market must be CE compliant. So no your home brew amp for your own use doesn’t need to be CE compliant. But you’re still responsible for it as the builder if it causes a death or if you sell it/give it to your neighbour etc.
tinisuta wrote:1. However, must each appliance be CE-certified by a recognized certification company ?
No This is not necessarily the case, you can self certify to 60065 which ensures the product complies with the Low Voltage Directive.. which is the directive that says don’t kill anyone.
EMC Directive is another requirement that I am not sure about, but as far as I was aware you had to have a testing house do EMC compliance tests. The EMC directive is the one that’s says your product must not interfere with my product. EMC testing is not practical for most small time builders and since there are no high speed clocks or microwave components in a vintage repro amp I don’t think this would be a major issue?
Big amp companies get this done though… Marshall etc
tinisuta wrote:2. Or is a self-written statement indicating that the appliance is CE-compliant enough ? Knowing that in case a customer sends the manufacturer to court, failure to comply with CE-specs will be considered as a fault.
The CE Declaration is normally issued buy the builder/amp company or agent in the state.
A statement of conformity by itself does not make an amp CE compliant, it lets the buyer know the amp has being designed and built with due diligence. The product has to have certain labels on the product and a user manual to be even considered CE complaint. So normally it’s very easy to prove if a product is not or was not CE complaint.
tinisuta wrote:Practically, I have recently asked a boutique amp-maker if his amps are CE-certified. He answered that the high level of customization of each of his amps makes it impossible to certify each amp, but he agreed to issue a written document stating that his amps comply with CE-requirements. Is that sufficient?


Well what you have written is a contradiction, you can’t say it’s impossible to comply with standard requirements but write a letter to say it does comply with standard requirements.
What he could do is write a CE declaration indicating that the amp has being built to “generally” comply with the 60065 standard but is fully compliant with the Low Voltage Directive. But he will then need to prove that should something happen.
Ask him if he owns the standard to start with, so that he has it as a working reference. It costs a few hundred quid so backroom builders are unlikely to have it. Being aware of EU standards and not working to them would only prove negligence in court.

Part of the problem with customisation is that the standard requires you to retest the amp, to ensure the component selections withstands normal and failure mode operation. The builder could still have a design file for a basic amp with all customisations listed as options…… but that’s a huge amount of work for a small amp builder, particularly one who mainly builds custom amps.
Also ask about after sales service, warranty, if you took it to an amp tech is a schematic available. Etc
If you’re paying a fair price for a fancy pance boutique piece of equipment then these things should be in place, if you’re paying a couple hundred quid for an amp off ebay then its unlikely that these things will be in place… you really do get what you pay for.

My day time job requires that I work to Standards for heavy hydraulic lifting equipment, we do allot of customisations, the important parts is that what we do is inline with the standards safety requirements and that we have records of what we have done.
Simples

I don’t want to burn any Euro builders though, the standards is there to protect the builder and provide the buyer with confidence that is not some Chinese cheap import that doesn’t even have a safety ground connection. From what I have seen in Guitar mags many of the Dr Z amps and Badcat amps don’t have CE marking on them, and yesterday I had an amp tech talk to me about a UK made Matamp amp he has worked that clearly was not CE compliant from a labelling point of view. But these are all well built amps and will unlikely give the user any issues. So you have to decide if you want the guys product or not or if you want to keep supporting the mass producers.. or support the little guys who take real pride in each and every product.



Sorry .. I preach to much…
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StarGeezers
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Post by StarGeezers »

Mike ... " But you’re still responsible for it as the builder if it causes a death or if you sell it/give it to your neighbour etc. " That's pretty scary !!! :o
I make amps for myself , to gig with.... not interested in a business, but people keep asking to either buy one of my amps or build one for them .. Don't want to sell my stuff, but they keep offering me MONEY, which in times like these is awfully tempting !!! Any way to protect myself from litigation???
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tinisuta
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Post by tinisuta »

Hello Guitarmike,

"Practically, I have recently asked a boutique amp-maker if his amps are CE-certified. He answered that the high level of customization of each of his amps makes it impossible to certify each amp, but he agreed to issue a written document stating that his amps comply with CE-requirements. Is that sufficient?"

Maybe I was unclear: this amp-maker did not want to have a 3rd party certify each of his models, but agreed to issue himself what you call a "CE declaration". Anyway, from what you say, certification does not need to be issued by a 3rd pty so there is no pb here.

You shed some light on an interesting subject which in fact directly concerns us as well. Since we all more or less modify our amps and let other people use them, we are all facing a certain risk. Not saying that each of us in Europe should make our home-built amps CE-compliant, but it is useful to be informed of what specifications our amps should normally comply with and what risks we can face.

thanks for your preach. If you other info to dispatch on the subject, it is very welcome. [/quote]
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guitarmike2107
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Post by guitarmike2107 »

StarGeezers wrote:Mike ... " But you’re still responsible for it as the builder if it causes a death or if you sell it/give it to your neighbour etc. " That's pretty scary !!! :o
I make amps for myself , to gig with.... not interested in a business, but people keep asking to either buy one of my amps or build one for them .. Don't want to sell my stuff, but they keep offering me MONEY, which in times like these is awfully tempting !!! Any way to protect myself from litigation???

Geezer..Law in the states is different to EU law, you don’t legally have to UL certify your products in the states, but its helpful working to a standard when you have to prove due diligence of course.

Just make sure you build it Mil Spec bomb proof and you will be fine I am sure…
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StarGeezers
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Post by StarGeezers »

Mike , Thanks !! , I do my BEST work and generally OVERBUILD all my stuff ... No room for shoddy workmanship in my gig amps... I depend on them!!!! ... doesn't mean much if the Village Idiot gets a hold of it ... :o :roll: Even Idiots have Money ... :lol:
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Post by katopan »

This stuff is a bit scary given that your house/livelyhood is at stake. Of course it doesn't matter as long as nothing happens. If your amp that you sold to a friend of a friend is well built then it should be alright. But as a minimum I'd have a file on each amp built with who it was sold to, an asbuilt schematic, and a series of detailed photos of in and outs. If the horrible was to happen due to the 'village idiot' you need something to prove that the burnt lump of amp recovered by forensics was well built and your defence will be looking for either modification or incorrect use to get you off. Before photos will be very useful. Of course the lawyers on the team against you have heaps to play with. Regulations vary everywhere, and there's little hope of most hobby builders having read the regs (Aust ones are freely available on the net) let alone getting access to the standards that they point to (normally a single purchase or if you're lucky your work will have a subscription). Self declaration is usually allowed by the governing body, but the standards have some querky tests that you need to provide paper work. A simple example - all amps with a metal chassis would easily pass the impact test requirement. But often regs require the test to be documented by the self-tester. If you didn't actually put an amp through the tests but assumed it would pass, there's a hole. I've felt comfortable building amps for direct friends, but put off building for friends of friends, or enquiring guys at the local blues jam. Of course none of this applies if you're providing kits. But yeah, don't write a manual.
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Post by gwtekman »

From what I understand you should be able to escape most any personal financial liabilty a lot by selling everything through an LLC that you set up and also set up a S-corp and have the S-corp the only share holder of the LLC ( I think this the right way to describe it). I have never done anything like that but a buddy of mine did his business that way (not amps). He said that if everything failed or he got sued for a product liabilty that they could not get to his personal wallet and property that way. at worst it would only put the companies on paper out of business. But I am not an accountant or a lawyer, so personally I know nothing about the process or its true limitations.
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Post by CurtissRobin »

gwtekman wrote:From what I understand you should be able to escape most any personal financial liabilty a lot by selling everything through an LLC that you set up and also set up a S-corp and have the S-corp the only share holder of the LLC ( I think this the right way to describe it).
That's not worth the trouble. Two layers won't shield you from liability any better than one and it'll cost more to set up and more to defend if it comes to that. In fact, the IRS might see fit to invalidate both corporations in that scheme. I'm also sure we're talking about a hobby business here so the likelihood of facing off with adversarial lawyers is mighty small.

I believe I'd take the Doberman Amps approach and sell a bag of parts that the buyer could solder up as a planter or a birdcage or (if he goes to one of the URLs you provide) an amplifier much like the ones described and discussed on 18watt.com. But that's just me.

KennyO
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Post by katopan »

gwtekman wrote:From what I understand you should be able to escape most any personal financial liabilty a lot by selling everything through an LLC that you set up and also set up a S-corp and have the S-corp the only share holder of the LLC
In Aust the equivalent setup affords no additional protection unless there are more than one director of the company. With just yourself you still end up with your house on the line.
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Post by conger »

I don't sell kits or sell amps but I have often thought about this issue. One approach that I think might work would be to sell an amp without a mains plug or lead. Then place a large sticker on the back stating that the amp is a historically correct working amp that must not be plugged into the mains. Perhaps get the buyer to sign a declaration that they understand and agree to this. Perhaps a mains lead could be given free with each amp to use with other household devices. Just an idea.
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