Users Are Suing Fitbit Over Inaccurate Heart Monitors

Users Are Suing Fitbit Over Inaccurate Heart Monitors

Just days after its shares dropped a whopping 18 per cent, Fitbit just took another big hit. The wearables company has been slapped with a class-action lawsuit alleging that its heart rate monitoring technology is inaccurate, and that the company is knowingly misleading users. A trio of users launched the lawsuit and claim that Fitbit's PurePulse heart rate monitoring technology is inaccurate by a "significant margin", particularly during periods of intense exercise. (The feature is available in Fitbit's Charge HR and Surge products.) Despite Fitbit's claim to the contrary, the suit alleges that the fitness trackers don't "count every beat".

PurePulse, which will be included in the recently announced Blaze, works by using LED lights to monitor blood flow through a user's wrist. Algorithms then determine heart rate, which, according to the plaintiffs, tends to be considerably off the mark. Similar technology can be found in the Apple Watch, along with other smartwatches and fitness trackers.

Users Are Suing Fitbit Over Inaccurate Heart Monitors

The plaintiffs say they purchased the devices off the company's advertised promise that the trackers accurately track heart rates. One person in the lawsuit claims that her Charge HR recorded a heart rate of 82 beats per minute, but when her trainer recorded her heartbeat with a different device, it registered at the much higher rate of 160 bpm. The other plaintiffs make similar claims.

Here's what Fitbit told Fortune Magazine when asked to comment:

We do not believe this case has merit. Fitbit stands behind our heart rate technology and strongly disagrees with the statements made in the complaint and plans to vigorously defend the lawsuit. Fitbit is committed to making the best clip and wrist-based activity trackers on the market. Our team has performed and continues to perform internal studies to validate our products' performance.

PurePulse provides better overall heart rate tracking than cardio machines at the gym, as it tracks your heart rate continuously -- even while you're not at the gym or working out. But 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.

No doubt, and it bears repeating: Users need to be aware that consumer fitness trackers are not scientific or medical devices. Fitness trackers are nothing more than casual lifestyle gadgets that are fun and motivational. Their tracking efficacy has not be proven. That being said, the levels of inaccuracies reported by the complainants are clearly unacceptably high and worthy of concern.

Fitbit has faced legal troubles before. Back in 2014, a number of users suffered skin rashes after using Fitbit Force, sparking a lawsuit. The company eventually removed the device from the market, replacing it with the Charge. The new lawsuit isn't nearly as large as the skin rash debacle. However, it still feels like Fitbit keeps getting kicked when it's already down.

[The Verge]

Photos by Michael Hession

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    I do hope any settlement will be limited strictly to a refund of the cost item.
    Anything more would make a (further) laughing stock of the US legal system.

    Simply put, cheap pieces of crap like this cannot "accurately" monitor anything, and I stress the word "accurate". I repaired medical equipment for years. When electronic equipment is used to help a doctor judge if a person needs open heart surgery etc, thats when you know why it costs more than a house! As an electronics engineer, these have always been a bit of an inside "joke" to technicians with any electronics experience. Toys, thats all they are. I was waiting for something like this to occur. Companies selling these should be ashamed of the way they market them to the gullible public, people totally unaware of the complexities of accurately monitoring vitals. No sympathy from me!

    Last edited 08/01/16 6:24 pm

    Dunno bout the hate but i've found my fit bit charge hr to be relatively useful for monitoring activity during the day to get a sense of where my tdee is - i doubled up with my old faithful chest hrm to check accuracy and for me it work pretty damn well (always within 3bpm).

    Having said that it is absolutely useless when you need to contract your forearms muscles, ie grip something. I'm not sure if fitbit mention this at all but blood flow to your forearms is virtually occluded when you use a strong grip and seeing as the fitbit measures bloodflow not electrical signals it is essentially useless for those exercises (like rowing or weights). So if you plan on doing those exercises use a chest hrm.

      I dont doubt they can be useful for "basic" monitoring. For very basic exercise checks, heart rate etc they are fine. But you need to treat the readings skeptically. This should be printed in big letters across the packaging. Thats mainly my problem with them, the marketing needs to be explicit and warn clearly that these shouldn't be used for any "medical" surveillance, only general day to day data collection.

        Mate these days, imo, that is just common sense. Marketing today is borderline professional lying\manipulation. Never trust advertisements - get the specs and get in touch with someone you trust who's more knowledgeable about it. It's not just health products that goes with everything be it media, food, diet, exercise etc etc.

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