The big question behind the Fitbit lawsuit

Fitbit's hardly working up a sweat with this new lawsuit Image via popsugar
Fitbit's hardly working up a sweat with this new lawsuit Image via popsugar

The big wearables story of the week hasn’t come from CES where Samsung showed off its cool Smart Suit and UnderArmour’s Speedform Gemini 2 shoes have – sorry – run away with the headlines.

Amid all the clutter, though, comes news of a lawsuit that strikes at the heart of the $4 billion wearables industry. On Tuesday, the day that Fitbit unveiled its new Blaze smartwatch (complete with colour touchscreen, and yea, verily, it is a thing of beauty – scroll down), it’s shares ended the day 18 per cent lower.

That sharp drop was because the company was sued by a group of Fitbit users, claiming its Charge HR and Surge models significantly underestimated their heart rates during workouts. The lawsuit, which claims the company falsely advertised the wrist-bound monitors, is seeking compensatory and punitive damages, CNET reports.

“This failure did not keep Fitbit from heavily promoting the heart-rate monitoring feature,” reads the lawsuit, which also seeks class-action status. “Fitbit defrauded the public and cheated its customers.”

According to the complaint, one plaintiff asked a trainer to count her heart rate during a workout after buying her Charge HR last year. The trainer recorded a heart rate of 160 beats per minute, but her Fitbit device put the rate at 82. The other plaintiffs cite similar experiences with a Fitbit PurePulse-equipped product. “With those margins of error, the Heart Rate Trackers are effectively worthless as heart rate monitoring devices,” the lawsuit said.

What’s Fitbit saying?

Fitbit’s response? That the complaint had no merit, it would defend itself, and that it stands by its devices. “Fitbit stands behind our heart rate technology and strongly disagrees with the statements made in the complaint and plans to vigorously defend the lawsuit,” Heather Pierce, a spokeswoman for the company, was quoted by Bloomberg as saying.

Which is all fine and dandy, but the damage from this wound could be more than skin-deep – even if Barack Obama is among the world’s loyal Fitbitters.

So can you trust the Fitbit? Or any other wearable?

If you can’t depend on your Surge to accurately track the vital indicators you need to live a healthy life – in short, if it isn’t doing its job – then the products are worthless. No matter how pretty, techy or POTUS-endorsed.

As we hacks are fond of saying, watch this space.

The Fitbit Blaze is packed with features such as connected GPS, FitStar Personal Trainer, PurePluse continuous heart-rate tracking, SmartTrack automatic exercise recognition and more. Image via Fitbit.com
The Fitbit Blaze is packed with features such as connected GPS, FitStar Personal Trainer, PurePluse continuous heart-rate tracking, SmartTrack automatic exercise recognition and more.
Image via Fitbit.com