Fitbit to 'vigorously defend' its sleep tracking tech in 'meritless' lawsuit

Fraud and false advertising suit slapped on wearable company

Fitbit has been targeted in a lawsuit over the capabilities of its sleep tracking features, in which it's accused of false advertising and common law fraud over the accuracy of its data.

Technology lawsuits are ten-a-penny in the States, and there's an entire industry devoted to suing companies for anything from dubious patents to claims over their products.

Essential reading: Fitbit Surge review

Now James P Brickman, who claims to represent a group of disgruntled Fitbit owners unhappy with the sleep tracking capabilities of its fitness trackers, has filed a lawsuit against the wearable company.

The lawsuit cites a 2012 study that found that Fitbit devices tend to overestimate sleep by an average of 67 minutes.

"Thinking you are sleeping up to 67 minutes more than you actually are can cause health consequences, especially over the long term," wrote the claimant, who has hired lawyers from Ohio and California for the case.

"[Fitbit] has made specific advertisement claims that for an extra charge, the customer can purchase a device which also contains a "sleep-tracking" function which will track "how long you sleep," "the number of times you woke up," and "the quality of your sleep," the claim states.

"In fact, the sleep-tracking function does not and cannot do these things. It does not perform as advertised. Consumers who purchase these products and pay the extra amount for this function do not receive the value of this function for which they paid," it continues.

Brickman is pursuing seven claims against Fitbit, ranging from false advertising and unfair competition to common law fraud, citing that Fitbit "wilfully, falsely, and knowingly misrepresented material facts relating to the character and quality of the sleep-tracking function, as stated above."

The suit targets the "Fitbit Force, Fitbit Flex, Fitbit One, Fitbit Zip, and Fitbit Ultra; as well as Fitbit's second-generation products, the Fitbit Charge, Fitbit Charge HR, and Fitbit Surge."

However, the Fitbit Zip is off the hook, as the claim states that it "does not have the 'sleep-tracking function' and the price for this base-model device does not reflect any extra charge for that function."

Naturally, Fitbit disputes the claims and got in touch with Wareable to confirm that it would be fighting the case.

"We do not believe this case has merit. Fitbit strongly disagrees with the statements about the product and the company contained in the Brickman complaint and plans to vigorously defend the lawsuit," a spokesman said.

"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," the company continued.

It's bad timing for Fitbit, which has just filed for a public offering, in which the company was initially valued at $100m.

What do you think?

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  • K86·

    My wife and I both have fitbit flex trackers and experience no trouble at all with the sleep tracking functions. We also were not required to pay extra for this function. Anyone who expects this kind of technology or the outside temperature readout or the tire pressure readout on your car dash or the heartrate/blood pressure readouts on various devices worn when at the gym to be absolutely accurate is a candidate to buy many of the bridges offered by hucksters everywhere.  Get a life! Our flexes are very useful devices and good guides to fitness.

    • lkeels·

      You most assuredly DID pay extra for the sleep functions since Fitbit devices without sleep monitoring cost less than the device you purchased. Think before you speak.

      • PRSirois·

        No, I did not.  You are wrong.  It comes with the sleep tracker.

  • ultravioletrace·

    I both already the fitbit charge the other day. I changed my mind, I have plan to return today to change the fitbit charge hr. I'm very excited to use it. 

  • Ribbitt38·

    Wholeheartedly agree with K86- both mine and my husband's Charge HRs work great and as expected. Yes, there are off days, yes there are ways to trick one's way to extra floors or steps but it never was touted to be as accurate as Olympic timing or a clinical grade heart monitor either. Does it get us thinking about fitness more and prompt us to take extra steps or drink more water? Yes, which is why we purchased them. Really, another frivolous, self-serving lawsuit that only makes the plaintiff look silly. Believe me, if mine told me I had an extra 67 minutes of sleep, the only health consequences would be me ROTFLMAO; which would be a pretty good stress reliever despite the lack of sleep.

  • alexmike8288·

    My wife and I both have Fitbit trackers and experience no trouble at all with the sleep or any other function. We also were not required to pay extra for the sleep function. To have someone suggest that diminishes their creditability about the experience.  K86 good feedback!!

    • lkeels·

      You most assuredly DID pay extra for the sleep functions since Fitbit devices without sleep monitoring cost less than the device you purchased.  Think before you

      • ChiJeep·

        think before you....?

        Hmmm seems pretty hypocritical huh? Think before you press Submit comment or just keep your useless, and repeated comments to yourself... 

      • PRSirois·

        You CANNOT purchase it with or without the sleep tracking.  You are the one who should be thinking.

  • kttalks3·

    Many people are complaining of aching in wrists and arms while wearing the band. This is due to EMF (electro magnetic frequency) which is NOT good. You should discontinue wearing the band and return for a refund. Sorry.:((

    • lkeels·

      Absolute and total BS. Put your foil hat back on.

    • DrEngineer·

      EMF stands for electromotive force or electromagnetic field.  If you don't comprehend the physics, perhaps you shouldn't believe what you read in pseudo-scientific journals or 'health' magazines without some documented evidence.

    • shellkaz·

      I have heard that elsewhere too on certain watches. 

      I have the Blaze and normally have pain in my wrist. Funny, cause since I have been wearing my Blaze, I haven't had any pain. I haven't had my Blaze long, but was getting the pain everyday before. 

    • PRSirois·

      Right, absolute and total BS!

  • Allison·

    I just started using a FitBit Charge HR and I've found that the sleep tracking is immensely inaccurate. I've had at least 3 sleep studies, and 2 week long video EEGs--they were all very consistent in terms of sleep architecture. I'm lucky to get an average of 5 hours of incredibly fractured sleep a night and it usually takes at least an hour for me to fall asleep. The FitBit Charge HR claims I sleep an average of 9 hours a night, take zero minutes to fall asleep, and only wake up an average of 3 times a night. It also claims I'm asleep at times that I know for certain I was awake (because I was sending messages to friends and compared the time stamps to the FitBit data).

    I didn't purchase a FitBit specifically for its sleep tracking (I'd only trust a trained neurologist to do that for me), but I do agree that it's inaccurate.

    • PRSirois·

      I have a Fitbit Flex, and I also have had many tests.  I had four polysomnographies in the first few months of this year because they couldn't even get enough data to make a diagnosis.  I got my Fitbit in May of 2016, and it has been incredibly accurate as to my disturbed sleep patterns and the amount of sleep I get (or don't get is more to the point).  I don't know why mine is more accurate, but I would also be upset if I were you knowing that my sleep is so irregular and having the device say otherwise.

  • Auke·

    For me the sleep function on my Fitbit Surge works amazing. It even logs if I fall asleep on the couch while watching TV. :-)

    • PRSirois·

      Right, me too - I have a Fitbit Flex.

  • Walkerbell·

    I agree the Fitbit flex is up to an hour sometimes 2 hours generous in how much sleep I am actually getting. How does one join this lawsuit?

    • ChiJeep·

      stand in the middle of the nearest busy intersection 

  • rmaclean·

    I am wondering if I am actually getting as poor sleep as my tracker indicates.  It records that I only get about 3-4 hours sleep in a 7-8 hour period.  

    • PRSirois·

      The only way to determine if that is the case is to have an overnight sleep study done and compare the results.  Mine is incredibly accurate, and I have a Flex.

  • Runn1924·

    i love my Charge. Ironically, I left it off last night and it logged sleep when it wasn't even on. Not quite sure what to think of that now that I found this article.  I was trying to find an explanation for the log. Now I wonder about the sleep monitor altogether. 

    • kathrynbaer1·

      That is why I clicked on this article.  I left mine off last night because it was keeping me from sleeping, and the next morning, it repeated the data from the night before as if I had worn it in my sleep.  So I was like this thing is just using previous data when you are not wearing it.  

    • LMD·

      I believe the band measures movement. If you put in the settings that you go to sleep and wake up at a certain time, it will most likely assume that during that time you are sleeping if there's no movement of the band. Upside is when you are wearing it, it tracks, but if you aren't it still thinks it's tracking sleep during that time period. With the fitbit one you have to manually tell it your going to sleep, so there's less room for error and it's actually tracking sleep. Down side is that if you forget to tell it, it won't track. For those who are frustrated about accuracy, these devices are for general trends trends not accurate scientific data. They are by no means able to provide the information a sleep study would.

  • pkolson·

    My husband and I both have a Charge and I think it is fairly accurate with regard to sleep. He sleeps like a log and that is reflected in his great sleep stats. I sleep lightly and get up frequently and that is reflected in my poor stats. I also agree with the "Get a life" comment. It's an inexpensive tool meant as a guide and definitely a constant positive reminder to get up and move (except at night, of course!)  :)   Not a medical piece of equipment.   Totally frivolous suit and reminds me why we are such a joke overseas for our litigious society.  Throw it out, judge!!

  • shellkaz·

    Sounds like lawyers being typical lawyers to me! Anything for a case to line their greedy pockets. 

    Besides which, how many people truly buy these specially to check their sleeping? It's a watch that is only monitoring your movements and stats by your wrist. If you seriously want to know what you're doing in your sleep, purchase a device that is specially made for that purpose or get a sleep study test done, for pete sake. These people who were involved in the claim are pathetic. Perhaps the don't have enough upstairs, but you take things like that with a grain of salt. 

    I actually did a sleep study test last night and wore my Blaze. Although I'm not counting on it being thorough, it will be interesting to see how well Blaze does. Especially considering it only used my wrist and the sleep test uses numerous wires and straps over the body!