Fitbit Can’t Duck Claims Over Sleep Tracker

     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) — A federal judge refused on Friday to dismiss a class action accusing Fitbit of lying to consumers that its wearable devices can track sleep quality.
     U.S. District Judge James Donato said the plaintiffs had sufficiently stated their consumer deception and warranty claims that Fitbit advertises on its product packaging that its “Flex” device and other products equipped with a sleep-tracking feature can track sleep quality even though it knows the devices can’t actually do so.
     The Flex uses an accelerometer to track things like the number of hours a wearer slept and the number of times they woke up, but the plaintiffs say that accelerometers can only measure movement, and that movement data do not provide an accurate picture of how long and how well a wearer slept. They also say Fitbit charged $30 or more for sleep-tracking products than devices without the function.
     Donato said the product packaging, coupled with the plaintiffs’ own experiences with the products and documents stating that the devices can only measure motion, are enough to bring their claims. Fitbit argued that the plaintiffs hadn’t shown that its packaging misleads consumers and that the claims lacked the specificity necessary to allege fraud.
     “We intend to defend ourselves vigorously and demonstrate that plaintiffs’ case has no merit,” Fitbit said in a statement on Monday.
     Fitbit also cited a number of scientific studies finding that accelerometers do accurately track sleep, but Donato declined to consider them because the plaintiffs’ claims are based on Fitbit’s packaging statements that the devices will “track your night,” including “hours slept” and “sleep quality,” and not on the products’ underlying science.
     “These are not the kind of vague and empty taglines that courts have treated as non-actionable,” Donato said in his ruling. “They are the type of particularized statements that can be sued on because they make measurable claims about a product’s characteristics and functionality.”
     Although the plaintiffs have agreed to drop their breach of implied warranty claim, Donato found that the warranty claim could stand because sleep tracking is a key feature of the Flex and Fitbit’s other sleep-tracking devices.
     Fitbit said on Monday that the court had not addressed the merits of the plaintiffs’ allegations in refusing to dismiss the suit.
     “Due to procedural rules, the court is bound by the complaint and cannot consider the scientific studies that support Fitbit’s claim,” the company said. “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.”
     Attorneys for the plaintiffs did not respond to a request for comment on Monday morning.
     The plaintiffs are represented by Patrick Perotti and Frank Bartela of Dworken & Bernstein Co. in Painesville, Ohio.
     Fitbit is represented by William Stern, Erin Bosman and Julie Park of Morrison & Foerster in San Francisco and San Diego.

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