Vizio, Inc. (“Vizio”), a California-based company best known for its internet-connected televisions, agreed to a $17 million settlement that, if approved, will resolve multiple proposed consumer class actions consolidated in California federal court. The suits’ claims, which are limited to the period between February 1, 2014 and February 6, 2017, involve data-tracking software Vizio installed on its smart TVs. The software allegedly identified content displayed on Vizio TVs and enabled Vizio to determine the date, time, channel of programs and whether a viewer watched live or recorded content. The viewing patterns were connected to viewer’s IP addresses, though never, Vizio emphasized in its press release announcing the proposed settlement, to an individual’s name, address, or similar identifying information. According to Vizio, viewing data allows advertisers and programmers to develop content better aligned with consumers’ preferences and interests.
Among other claims, the suits allege that Vizio failed to adequately disclose its surveillance practices and obtain consumers’ express consent before collecting the information. The various suits, some of which were filed in 2015, were consolidated in California’s Central District in April 2016 and subsequently survived Vizio’s motion to dismiss. Vizio had argued that several of the claims were deficient, and contended that the injunctive relief claims were moot in light of a February 2017 consent decree resolving the Federal Trade Commission’s (“FTC”) complaint over Vizio’s collection and use of viewing data and other information. To settle the FTC case, Vizio agreed, among other things, to stop unauthorized tracking, to prominently disclose its TV viewing collection practices and to get consumers’ express consent before collecting and sharing viewing information.
The parties notified the district court in June that they struck a settlement in principle. On October 4, 2018, they jointly moved for preliminary settlement approval. Counsel for the consumers argued that the deal is fair, because revenue that Vizio obtained from sharing consumers’ data will be fully disgorged and class members who submit a claim will receive a proportion of the settlement of between $13 and $31, based on a 2 to 5 percent claims rate. Vizio also agreed to provide non-monetary relief including revised on-screen disclosures concerning its viewing data practices and deleting all viewing data collected prior to February 6, 2017. The relief is pending until the court approves the settlement.