After effectively undermining its own case by forcing disgruntled consumers into arbitration it then tried to escape because such proceedings would be “irrational,” digital fitness tracker manufacturer Fitbit found itself having to do some serious explaining in federal court last month. As reported by Reuters, at a May 2018 hearing before U.S. District Judge James Donato in San Francisco, Fitbit’s lawyers stated that “no rational party would pay hundreds of dollars in fees to initiate arbitration over a $162 fitness tracker.” They made this claim after a plaintiff rejected the fitness product company’s settlement offer of more than $2,800 to drop the arbitration case, Fitbit decided that the customer’s American Arbitration Association proceeding was therefore officially “concluded.”
Lieff Cabraser represents consumers in litigation against Fitbit over wild inaccuracies in several models of the company’s fitness trackers. “Fitbit did not just admit that arbitration of these claims is irrational for [the plaintiff] alone,” Lieff Cabraser’s June 14 brief noted. “It admitted that arbitration here is irrational for any consumer.”
In the class action lawsuit, consumers complain that the affected fitness trackers are grossly inaccurate and can even fail to record any heart rate at all, presenting very significant error rates that are at odds with Fitbit’s extensive national marketing campaign, in which the company claims the products will “count . . . every beat” and enable users to “know your heart.” As the Fitbit devices are aggressively marketed to and for exercisers rather than those sitting quietly at rest, the performance deficiencies are a real problem, and Fitbit’s wearable trackers can provide flatly inaccurate information that can be dangerous to some users.
The court ruled that settling the mandatory arbitration clause in Fitbit’s consumer contract would decide the threshold issue of whether Fitbit buyers would be able to sue as part of a class action in federal court or if they must arbitrate their claims individually. Reuters noted that “the company knew its customers wouldn’t go to the trouble and expense of bringing individual arbitration claims, so requiring arbitration was effectively a way for Fitbit to avoid all accountability [whatsoever] to consumers.”
“It’s only rational to impose costly arbitration on your customers if you’re pretty sure they’re not going to call your bluff and bring a proceeding,” continued the news service. “That’s the truth revealed in the Fitbit case. Its ugliness may in the eye of the beholder – mandatory arbitration looks like George Clooney if you’re a corporation – but that truth can’t be denied.”
Consumer Protection Attorneys at Lieff Cabraser
On January 5, 2016, attorneys at Lieff Cabraser, along with their co-counsel, filed a class action complaint on behalf of consumers seeking redress for Fitbit’s deceptive and misleading representations about its heart rate monitor products. The consumers claim that, as all the data demonstrates, Fitbit’s heart rate monitors cannot accurately or meaningfully record heart rates during high-intensity exercise, precisely what Fitbit advertised them for.
The consumers also claim that Fitbit fraudulently tried to shield itself from liability for these defective products by tricking consumers into agreeing to an arbitration agreement, which the consumers argue should not be enforced.
The lawsuit brings claims for false advertising, unfair competition, common-law fraud, fraud in the inducement, unjust enrichment, breach of express warranty, breach of implied warranties under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, and under the consumer protection statutes of California and Arizona.
If you purchased a Fitbit heart rate monitor (Fitbit Charge HR, Blaze, and Surge), we invite you to visit our Fitbit heart rate monitor lawsuit page to contact a consumer attorney at Lieff Cabraser. We welcome the opportunity to learn of your experiences with your Fitbit heart rate monitor and to answer any questions you may have about your legal rights.