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Class Action Filed Over Fitbit's Sleep Tracking Technology

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on May 15, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

In a class action lawsuit that's sure to get heart rates up, a Florida man has alleged that Fitbit's technology is a fraud. James Brickman claims that the company duped him and others out of their cash by making false claims that it could track their sleep.

Fitbit sells wearable tech devices that track a consumer's steps, calories burned, distance covered and other data. Those features have made it a widely popular accessory amongst fitness nerds. The company also advertises a sleep tracking feature, promising "quantified sleep" and "quality data." According to the class action, however, the product's sleep tracking function does not and cannot do what it claims.

Your Own Wearable Big Brother

Fitbit offers the sleep tracking function as a $30 upgrade to certain devices. The lawsuit alleges that the company makes specific claims as to what can be tracked, saying it will record hours slept, times woken up and quality of sleep. It can even give a "sleep quality score." For those who want to drill down into their bedtime minutia, the devices will report the time at which you fell asleep versus just laid your head down, your sleep efficiency, amount of restless minutes, and how often you woke up during the night.

You're Telling Me This Isn't a Medical-Grade Device?

Research, however, says that Fitbit can't do what it claims, according to the lawsuit. Well, at least one study -- the basis of the suit is a single study which compared the reliability of Fitbit to medical sleep disorder diagnosis technology, polysomnography. That tech is "expensive, time-consuming, intrusive and interferes with sleep" the study says, but more accurate in identifying waking time and sleep quality. According to the research, Fitbit "may be acceptable," but also consistently misidentifies wake as sleep. Specifically, the study found that Fitbit overestimated sleep by about an hour per night.

At Least It's Not a Rash

Brickman brought the suit under California's Unfair Competition Law and False Advertising Law. The first law prohibits any unlawful, unfair or fraudulent acts or practices and deceptive, untrue or misleading advertising. The second similarly disallows deceptive, untrue or misleading advertising. Several claims involving warranty violations and common law fraud are also made.

Fitbit has yet to respond to the class action. They may be too busy beating back (half-baked) claims that tech wearables could cause cancer, or lawsuits from users who've developed rashes while wearing the devices.

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