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Fitbit users sue, claiming heart rate monitors miss the beat

Wearable-device maker is accused of false advertising after users claim in lawsuit that its heart rate monitors give wrong readings.

Fitbit says its wearable heart monitors help "make every beat count." A group Fitbit users say the devices don't even count every beat.

Three plaintiffs from California, Colorado and Wisconsin filed a lawsuit Tuesday against San Francisco-based Fitbit, 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.

Wearable-maker Fitbit is facing a class action lawsuit on claims two of its popular heart rate monitoring devices give inaccurate readings.

Sarah Tew/CNET

"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."

Fitbit said the complaint has no merit and would defend itself. The company also said it stands by its devices.

"Our team has performed and continues to perform internal studies to validate our products' performance," the company said in a statement.

The suit, filed in US District Court in San Francisco, opens a new legal battle for Fitbit. The company is already in the midst of several suits against rival wearable-device maker Jawbone over accusations of poaching workers and stealing trade secrets. Fitbit issued a recall in 2014 after customers complained of rashes after wearing the devices and a lawsuit over misleading advertising.

Fitbit's troubles come despite high-profile use of its devices, which cost between $150 to $250. President Barack Obama famously wears a Surge, which he was seen sporting in a recent episode of Comedian in Cars Getting Coffee with Jerry Seinfeld.

According to the complaint, one plaintiff had a trainer manually count her heart rate during a workout after buying her Charge HR last year. While the trainer recorded a heart rate of 160 beats per minute, her Fitbit device said her rate was at 82. The other plaintiffs cite similar experiences with their Fitbit devices.

"With those margins of error, the Heart Rate Trackers are effectively worthless as heart rate monitoring devices," the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit was filed on the same day Fitbit unwrapped the Blaze, its first health monitor with a color touchscreen. The device got a ho-hum reception, prompting the company's stock to slide.