One of the most talked about features of the new iPhone 4S is Siri, the personal assistant designed to answer questions and complete tasks for its user by simple voice command. According to Apple’s website, Siri “can quickly understand what you say and what you are asking for, then quickly return a response.” Unfortunately, it may not be so simple.
On March 20, 2012, Apple Inc. and Apple Canada Inc.’s first potential Canadian class action law suit regarding the iPhone 4S was filed in Montréal, Québec. A similar class action was subsequently filed in Regina, Saskatchewan. These “copycat” class actions came on the heels of several lawsuits filed in the United States.
In the Montréal motion, the applicant is seeking to institute a class action on behalf of all persons in Canada who purchased and/or otherwise became the owner of an iPhone 4S and were affected by Siri’s alleged shortcomings. The motion currently awaits certification.
In a nutshell, the applicant alleges that Apple’s advertisements are false and misleading. According to the motion, Siri is not the “substantial breakthrough development” claimed by Apple but is “at best, a work-in-progress” and is “really just a more expensive version of the iPhone 4.” Unlike depictions on Apple’s website, in its advertisements and in videos on YouTube, the applicant asserts that Siri often fails to understand commands or provides the wrong answer to a command. As for a remedy, the applicant seeks a price reduction on the purchase price of the iPhone 4S, compensation for any other expenses incurred or other damages suffered as a result of Siri’s failure to perform, and compensatory, moral, punitive and/or exemplary damages.
Could this be yet another example of the inherent risk of using disclaimers? Fine print on Apple’s website states that Siri is available only in Beta, that its features may vary by area, and that the company will continue to improve Siri over time. A Beta graphic appears at first instance in describing the Siri feature on the website, although no information is linked to the graphic. According to the applicant, however, (and among other allegations) Apple fails to mention the word “Beta” in its marketing and advertising campaign, and fails to disclose that the situations depicted are fictional and that consumers cannot expect Siri to perform as depicted.
Whether Apple’s representations with respect to Siri will be deemed false and misleading is yet to be seen. However, these lawsuits confirm yet again that consumers are watching and listening to representations companies make in their advertisements — and they’re not afraid to take action if they feel deceived.