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
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