Fitbit PurePulse heart rate lawsuit will go ahead, as judge refuses to dismiss case

In-house developed bpm tech at the centre of legal action Stateside
​Fitbit heart rate lawsuit goes ahead

A judge has denied Fitbit's request to dismiss allegations over its heart rate technology, meaning the hearing will go ahead.

Back in January, Fitbit was hit with a class action lawsuit regarding the accuracy of its heart rate tracking. A group of plaintiffs claimed that Fitbit's in-house PurePulse heart rate tech is "significantly" inaccurate and are seeking damages for "economic injury."

Judge Susan Illston has now turned down a request from Fitbit to have the lawsuit thrown out. A new order, published in October, cites three witnesses within Fitbit who claim the company knew about the inaccuracies. The plaintiffs also claim that sales of the new devices were key drivers of revenue growth for the company, and therefore securities were offered and traded at inflated prices.

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The initial claims were boosted with the attorneys who filed the lawsuit producing a study claiming to show Fitbit's heart rate accuracy is, on average, 20 beats per minute off during moderate to high-intensity exercise.

The study was based on 43 healthy adults and the lawyers argue that it proves that the Surge, Blaze and Charge HR trackers "could not provide meaningful heart rate data".

Speaking to CNN, attorney Jonathan Selbin said: "This is about the way they market it and that they charge a premium for the heart rate monitor, but it's not giving a meaningful measurement."

The authors of the report stated that Fitbit trackers work "pretty well" for resting wearers but the advertised "counting every beat" during exercise is false.

The San Francisco based company has responded to the study, saying: "It was paid for by plaintiffs' lawyers who are suing Fitbit, and was conducted with a consumer-grade electrocardiogram, not a true clinical device, as implied by the plaintiffs' lawyers. Furthermore, there is no evidence the device used in the purported 'study' was tested for accuracy."

Back in January, when the claim was originally filed, Fitbit said: "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."

The second part of this statement has long been used as a defence by Fitbit when faced with criticism over accuracy of its heart rate technology. In our review of the Fitbit Charge HR, we detailed inaccuracies while exercising and at rest.

It's not the first time Fitbit has faced legal issues over the accuracy of its tracking, and it was slapped with a lawsuit back in May 2015 concerning its sleep monitoring stats.

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10 Comments

  • M_Platenkamp says:

    I’m pretty much convinced now that Fitbit does not work! I am a heart patient from birth. Not a big deal but it's good to keep an eye on this which is why my wife bought me a Fitbit. I know for a fact that my heart rate is around 40bpm but my Fitbit insists that my heart rate is constantly around 90bpm, a few seconds later it’s 109bpm and a few second later it’s 80bpm. Btw, this is all when I’m sitting down and not moving… I'm pretty surethis thing is a hoax. Hopefully there’s a service number I can call for a proper explanation?

    • andrewt4 says:

      Regardless of whether you are sitting down heart rates can vary. It's the same with blood pressure. Anyway, there are a lot of papers that state that people can vary from, for example, 60 to 100 bpms in a matter of 1-2 seconds. Here is a link to a research gate question with some references to scientific papers https://www.researchgate.net/post/How_fast_can_the...

      Don't think that varying shows that its a hoax, I would be more concerned if it stayed the same. The difference may be something to look into. Just keep in mind that these devices are not as accurate as pressure based heart rate monitors that you would find in blood pressure monitors. It uses an optical sensor that has some inaccuracies. If you wish to look at the matter further, here is a link to a Wareable article with some comparisons and error margins. https://www.wareable.com/sport/optical-heart-rate-... I think that position is a key player in the accuracy of the sensor, I know that FitBit has an extensive guide to placing the watch on your wrist when doing exercises and for general use, maybe trying that would help. Also, keep in mind that your heart rate changes quite drastically though out the day.

  • Kit says:

    I have had a SURGE for over a year. It has been flawless. I am a physician (MD, FAAFS Fellow American Academy of Forensic Sciences) and also have a PhD in Human Physiology. If the heartbeat  monitor is worn properly, and adjusted as described in the written material, it is exceptionally accurate. I test it daily on 4-mile runs, and review the data in detail. [I do not work for FitBit, nor have I ever received any compensation from them or other considerations.] The defense as describved by the FitBit Attorney seems very reasonable to me. 

    • andrewt4 says:

      Hmm, that's exactly what someone being paid by FitBit would say ;-).

      Joking aside, I don't even see why this is a case. This device was never intended for medical use, at least it dosesn't boast to be. Do people honestly think that other devices such as Samsung heart rate monitor are that accurate? I can guarantee you that they are not. If you want high accuracy readings you will need to buy a medically tested device. The pure view is via an optical sensor, not a pressure sensor. Of course that will offer less accurate results. Here is a nice article from wearable about it. https://www.wareable.com/sport/optical-heart-rate-tech-the-experts-speak-9763

  • Zerbear101 says:

    Seriously? Wow. Sorry, but if someone wants completely accurate information on their heart rate, get a medical device!

    My dad and I have been using Fitbits for a long time. Myself, to keep fit and stay motivated. My dad, to lose weight and stay motivated. He has lost 45 pounds! He is no longer obese. We challenge each other and stay active; which is the purpose on the Fitbit. The heart rate part of it is just fun to watch. Yes, I like to see, after my runs what my cardio and peak times are, but seriously, it is just an idea and if not totally accurate I wouldn't sue! Seriously?

    This is a frivolous lawsuit. Commentary on today's world.

    If you want 100% accuracy on your heartbeat, see a doctor and get an actual MEDICAL DEVICE!

  • wingrider315 says:

    I work on medical equipment, and after hearing about this ridiculous lawsuit decided to compare my fitbit to the pulseoximeters in the hospital I work in and found it to be pretty accurate, easily within the tolerances allowed by the medical device.  have I ever noticed it off? yes, but a slight adjustment on the wrist brings it right back. the bottom like for me? it is a $200 watch, not a $5000 piece of medical equipment!!! this law suit to me is like comparing my vw bug to my dad's Mustang, the would think I was crazy if I brought it to court in a lawsuit. if you want medical. accuracy pay the medical device price

  • gerrit-hulleman says:

    I found mine fairly accurate both in steps and hr.

  • paulhanney says:

    I'm curious about the heart rate monitoring because sometimes I check the BPM and find I have none. ???

    Also, during my workout on my elliptical, it shows that a couple of time my heart rate was down in the 50's. Some of this time was from about 5 minutes in all the way to about 10 minutes, after which it climbed back up to around 108/110 BPM. (I increase intensity by one click every five minutes.)

  • AussieDerek says:

    It is a very simple exercise to check it yourself. Look at your heart rate on whatever device you may have then measure your pulse using the second hand of a clock or watch. Not actually rocket science but an absolutely accurate quick test.

    • andrewt4 says:

      Ahh, yes, old school, I like it. If you are impatient like me just measure it for 15 seconds then multiply by 4 ;-).

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