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Fitbit can't escape suit over sleep-tracking technology (Amended)

38407247.1 (38525630) - 27_05_2016 - FILES-US-IT-LIFESTYLE-WEARABLES.jpg
Fitbit Inc can't duck a lawsuit alleging that its sleep-tracking technology doesn't perform as well as advertised.

[SAN FRANCISCO] Fitbit Inc can't duck a lawsuit alleging that its sleep-tracking technology doesn't perform as well as advertised.

The leading maker of fitness wearables argued that consumers didn't back up claims that its devices failed to accurately monitor sleeping patterns.

A San Francisco federal judge ruled Friday that the case can proceed, stating that Fitbit's claims about the technology are not "vague and empty taglines" that courts typically treat as "non-actionable."

US District Judge James Donato cited Fitbit's advertising that its device will "track your night" including hours slept, time awakened and sleep quality.

"They are the type of particularised statements that can be sued on because they make measurable claims about the product's characteristics and functionality," he wrote.

Consumers alleged in the May 2015 complaint that the devices "consistently misidentify sleep" while falling "far below an acceptable standard of accuracy to render it useful in any way for scientific purposes."

The company is facing a similar suit challenging the accuracy of its heart-rate monitoring technology. In both cases, the company said it never claimed the devices would be scientifically accurate.

“Due to procedural rules, the court is bound by the complaint and cannot consider the scientific studies that support Fitbit’s claim,” the company said in a statement. “These studies demonstrate that Fitbit trackers do track sleep.”

Fitbit, which had an initial public offering in June 2015, remains the top seller of wearables, though its market share tumbled to 22 per cent in the third quarter of 2015 from 33 per cent a year earlier, according to IDC.

While rising competition may continue to chip away at its lead, analysts say design is more likely to determine consumer behavior than technology.

Fitbit fell 4.5 per cent to US$13.15 in New York trading, the most in almost three weeks.

The case is Brickman v Fitbit Inc, 15-cv-02077, US District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).

BLOOMBERG

A paragraph has been added to the story above to reflect the company's statement regarding the complaint.