Seller Beware: Class Action Attorneys Target Siri

Siri, Apple’s voice-activated assistant feature on the iPhone 4S, is in many respects a game changer, bringing the old sci-fi vision of an intelligent and responsive computerized assistant, calmly dispensing its digital wisdom in a smooth, well modulated voice, that much closer to reality.

Unfortunately, Siri still has quite a long way to go.  Because it is not as perfect as it appears to be in Apple ads, the company is now facing a number of class action lawsuits that claim the product is falsely advertised.

In the suits, which were consolidated in the Northern District of California, the plaintiffs argue that contrary to Siri’s perfect performance in television commercials,  it could not provide directions to a given location or locate a nearby store, and that it often claimed not to understand a simple  request or took an inordinate amount of time to respond and still provided incorrect directions.

Although Siri is in fact in beta testing, the plaintiff alleges that “the bulk of Apple’s massive marketing and advertising campaign, including its dominant and expansive television advertisements, fail to mention the word ‘beta’ and the fact that Siri is, at best, a work-in-progress,” and that Apple engaged in “fundamentally and designedly” false and misleading advertising that permitted the company to charge a significant price premium for the iPhone 4S.  The suits seek injunctive relief, compensatory and statutory damages, and restitution for violations of California’s Consumer Protection Act.

Apple filed a motion to dismiss the suits, arguing that although Siri represents “cutting-edge technology,” the company explicitly advised consumers that they “can’t ask [Siri] everything, and it’s not perfect” at the press event launching the iPhone 4S. In addition, Apple’s Web site “prominently” discloses its beta status on several pages in the Siri features section, the company said.  Apple further points out that although the plaintiffs all claim they became dissatisfied with Siri’s performance “soon after” purchasing the iPhone, none of them took advantage of Apple’s 30-day return policy.

The bottom line is this: advertisements always show a product in its best light. Exercise commercials feature beautiful muscle-bound models operating a device touted as the ultimate home fitness solution. Kitchen knives effortlessly cut through cans, and then slice tomatoes like butter.  No one truly believes that they work as well as advertised, but all they have to do is return it if they’re not fully satisfied.  What’s so hard about that?

Nothing of course, but as long as consumer class action attorneys smell money, sellers should keep in mind that advertising any product, no matter how excellent it may be, involves risks.



Author: Seth Heyman
Seth D. Heyman is a California attorney with extensive experience in advertising and marketing law, corporate law, contracts, governmental regulations, international business, and Internet law. He has counseled numerous successful companies, both public and private, and was responsible for regulatory compliance, contract management, corporate governance, and HR best practices for multiple organizations in many diverse industries, including marketing, telecommunications, energy, and technology development. He offers insight and guidance on federal and state direct mail, TV, radio, telemarketing, and Internet marketing laws, as well as online promotions, Internet privacy, data protection regulations, and similar matters.

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