On Tuesday, consumers in California, Colorado and Wisconsin filed a class action lawsuit against Fitbit, San Francisco, alleging that that company's Charge HR and Surge heart rate monitors do not consistently record accurate heart rates.
The lawsuit was filed the same day that Fitbit debuted its new product, the Fitbit Blaze, at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
Law firm Lieff Cabraser is handling the lawsuit, and a press release from the firm said that expert testing confirms the Charge HR and Surge products mis-record heart rates by a significant margin, particularly during intense exercise. Not only are accurate heart readings important for those engaging in fitness, they can be critical to the health and well-being of people whose medical conditions require them to maintain (or not exceed) a certain heart rate, the firm's press release states.
The complaint alleges that despite Fitbit's claims made in national advertising--which include slogans such as "Know Your Heart" and "Every Beat Counts" -- Fitbit's heart rate monitors do not accurately track users' heart-rates, much less "count every beat," particularly during the strenuous activities.
Fitbit denies the allegations. A spokesperson for Fitbit emailed the following statement to Club Industry:
"We do not believe this case has merit. Fitbit stands behind our heart rate technology and strongly disagrees with the statements made in the complaint and plans to vigorously defend the lawsuit. Fitbit is committed to making the best clip and wrist-based activity trackers on the market. Our team has performed and continues to perform internal studies to validate our products’ performance.
PurePulse provides better overall heart rate tracking than cardio machines at the gym, as it tracks your heart rate continuously -- even while you’re not at the gym or working out. But it’s also important to note that Fitbit trackers are designed to provide meaningful data to our users to help them reach their health and fitness goals, and are not intended to be scientific or medical devices."
Plaintiff Kate McLellan said in the release from law firm Lieff Cabraser: "I bought a Fitbit Charge HR because I am a serious fitness enthusiast, and I wanted to track my heart rate accurately and consistently while I exercised to help me exercise safely and meet my fitness goals. Fitbit's ads made it clear that that is precisely what the heart rate monitors are supposed to do. But in my experience, they do not, and when I complained to Fitbit, they refused to refund my money. I brought this case because the Fitbit Charge HR that I bought does not accurately and consistently track my heart rate during intense exercise, and because Fitbit refused to stand behind its promise. And I brought it as a class action because I am not alone. I have learned that many others have experienced exactly the same failures because the Heart Rate Monitors do not perform as promised."
Robert Klonoff, one of the lawyers representing McLellan and the other plaintiffs and a former assistant to the solicitor general of the United States, said: "Fitbit marketed these products through aggressive and widespread advertising to consumers who were not only deceived in the devices' true functionality, but who also were put at a safety risk by trusting the Fitbit Heart Rate Monitors' inaccurate measurements."
He added that many thousands of consumers paid a premium to get accurate heart rate monitors, and instead got devices that do not work as promised.
Lieff Cabraser partner Jonathan D. Selbin, who also represents plaintiffs, added that Fitbit tried to shield itself from being held accountable to consumers through use of a hidden arbitration clause and class action ban.
"Those clauses -- which purport to take away consumers' constitutional rights to bring a lawsuit to protect themselves from fraud-are hidden on Fitbit's website," he said in the release. "They are brought to the attention of consumers who purchased at third-party websites and retail locations only after they buy their Fitbits and visit Fitbit's website to register them."
Selbin also said that Fitbit recently admitted in court documents in an unrelated case that the Fitbit devices cannot function properly without registering them on Fitbit's website. And just by visiting that website, Fitbit purports to bind you to the arbitration clause and class action ban.
"We believe that this practice, itself, is an unfair and fraudulent business practice and an example of the dangers of allowing companies to unilaterally impose arbitration clauses on unsuspecting consumers," he said.
Fitbit also faces several lawsuits from competitor Jawbone, which alleges that Fitbit hired Jawbone employees away for the purpose of finding out confidential information about Jawbone, infringed on its patents. Jawbone also filed a suit to block Fitbit from importing devices and parts.