Apple is facing a number of consumer class actions claiming that Siri, the voice-activated assistant feature on Apple’s iPhone 4S, is falsely advertised.
Unlike Siri’s performance in television commercials, named plaintiff Frank Fazio charges that Siri could not provide directions to a given location or locate a nearby store and that it often claimed not to understand the request or took an inordinate amount of time to respond and still provided incorrect directions.
Although Siri is in fact in beta testing, “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,” Fazio alleged.
According to Fazio and the other plaintiffs in the suits consolidated in the Northern District of California, 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 quickly responded with a motion to dismiss the suits, arguing that the plaintiffs failed to specify the particular representations on which they relied and only desribed their disappointment with Siri. The motion notes that although the plaintiffs all claim they became dissatisfied with Siri’s performance “soon after” purchasing the iPhone, none of the plaintiffs availed themselves of Apple’s 30-day return policy.
Further, the company was upfront about Siri’s beta status, Apple argued, and disclosed it was developing technology during the press conference announcing the product, in the accompanying press release, and on the Apple Web site.
A hearing on the motion to dismiss is scheduled for June 21.
To read the complaint in Fazio v. Apple, click here.
To read Apple’s motion to dismiss the consolidated suits, click here.
Why it matters: Apple raises several arguments in defense of Siri and its advertising, although its strongest contention may be its own acknowledgement that Siri is still in beta. While calling the feature “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.