Fitbit Sued For Falsely Advertising Their Sleep Tracking Technology

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Eric Lieberman Deputy Editor
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A class-action lawsuit blaming Fitbit for inaccurately tracking people’s sleeping habits is moving forward.

US district judge James Donato of San Francisco permitted the case to proceed last week, Ars Technica reports. Fitbit, the wearable technology company that sells wireless activity trackers, claims to have several sleep monitoring capabilities. The company’s online help page describes how the tracker can “see how many hours you sleep and better understand the quality of your sleep.”

The lawsuit, which was originally filed by an individual, James Brickman of Florida, claims that “the sleep-tracking function does not and cannot do these things. It does not perform as advertised” and in doing so the company is violating California law.

Fitbit plans to “vigorously” combat these charges, which they believe has no basis. “These studies demonstrate that Fitbit trackers do track sleep,” the company said in a statement. “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. We intend to defend ourselves vigorously and demonstrate that plaintiffs’ case has no merit.”

Some consumers like Brickman evidently disagree enough to take this issue to court. “This lawsuit is to stop this unlawful practice, force the Defendant to return and disgorge its inequitable profits, and recover for customers the overcharges which they paid,” the legal document reads.

The judge presiding over the case wrote an official statement, which was obtained by Ars Technica, explaining why he refused to throw out the case.

“Fitbit disputes those allegations and the parties clearly have sharply divergent views about sleep monitoring technology and what works and what does not, but those issues of fact are far beyond the scope of this motion to dismiss. And even if Fitbit’s studies might validate the use of accelerometers for sleep monitoring, plaintiffs’ claims arise out of Fitbit’s representations on product packaging and similar sources. Consumers are not expected to do research ‘beyond misleading representations on the front of the box.”

In other words, even if Fitbit does have accurate sleep-tracking technology, the company has not proven it does and may still have misled customers through advertising.

The statement continues, “Fitbit tries to sidestep these roadblocks by arguing that the challenged statements are inactionable puffery as a matter of law.” The judge then goes onto highlight that statements by the company like “track your night” and “hours slept” are not the type “of vague and empty taglines like ‘know yourself, live better'” that past courts have regarded as non-actionable.

The judge argues that such “particularized statements” like “Sleep quality” and “Times woken up” are suable “because they make measurable claims about a product’s characteristics and functionality.”

The case is in the preliminary stages and still has an opportunity to be dismissed at later phases of the legal proceedings.

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