Fitbit just can’t seem to shake off its legal troubles. Earlier this year the company was hit with a lawsuit. Its heart-monitoring technology was called “wildly inaccurate” and the company was accused of false advertising.
The San Francisco wearables manufacturer is now facing more legal woes. A number of product owners are suing the company alleging Fitbit misled them into paying a $30 premium for sleep-tracking functions that don’t actually work. They raised a number of claims including fraud and consumer protection claims.
The lawsuit is focused specifically on the Flex activity tracker which, as you can see from the image on the right, advertises on its packaging that the wearable can track “hours slept,” “times woken up” and “sleep quality”. The device uses an accelerometer to track these metrics.
An accelerometer can measure only movement, which plaintiffs allege cannot provide an accurate picture of how long and how well a wearer slept. “The Fitbit devices do not record anything other than movement,” reads the most recent version of the complaint which has been amended several times by the plaintiffs.
Fitbit on the other hand, argues that the plaintiffs have not shown that its packaging misleads consumers, therefore lacking grounds to allege fraud. Fitbit therefore asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit, citing studies that bolster its assertion that an accelerometer can be used to monitor sleep habits.
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In a new development, US District Judge James Donato refused on Friday to to dismiss the class action. The court said that while parties clearly have sharply divergent views about sleep monitoring technology, these issues of fact go beyond a motion to dismiss. And even if Fitbit’s scientific studies might justify using accelerometers to track sleep, the claims arise out of the company’s representations on product packaging not on the underlying science.
Fitbit responded with a statement earlier this week.
“We intend to defend ourselves vigorously and demonstrate that plaintiffs’ case has no merit,” Fitbit said.
“Due to procedural rules, the court is bound by the complaint and cannot consider the scientific studies that support Fitbit’s claim.”
“These studies demonstrate that Fitbit trackers do track sleep. Fitbit trackers are not intended to be scientific or medical devices, but are designed to provide meaningful data to our users to help them reach their health and fitness goals.”
Its worth noting, Friday’s ruling says nothing about the actual merits of the plaintiffs’ case. Just that the lawsuit has met the requirements to proceed on to the next steps.
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