Law Street Media

Apple Receives Consumer Complaint Over Skin Color Bias in Apple Watch’s Pulse Oximeter

Apple's logo on a store window.

Bangkok, Thailand 21/12/2018 The logo of Apple brand in front ot First Apple store in Bangkok, Thailand.

A consumer class action filed in the Southern District of New York by a state resident last week alleges that Apple Inc.’s Apple Watch has a blood oxygen monitor whose efficacy varies depending on the wearer’s skin color, despite company representations that it is effective for all. The filing claims that the plaintiff paid more for his Apple Watch than he would have, had he known about its alleged inability to work as well for Black wearers.

The complaint explains that the Apple Watch purports to measure the oxygen level of a wearer’s blood directly from their wrist yet, “[f[or decades, there have been reports that such devices were significantly less accurate in measuring blood oxygen levels based on skin color.”

The suit points to evidence of the “clinical significance of racial bias of pulse oximetry” during the pandemic to conclude that “white patients are more able to obtain care than those with darker skin when faced with equally low blood oxygenation.”

Reportedly, the New York plaintiff purchased an Apple Watch equipped with a pulse oximeter during 2020 or 2021, for a premium price of about $400, believing that it “would not incorporate biases and defects of pulse oximetry with respect to persons of darker skin tone” based on Apple’s representations.

The filing states claims for breach of warranty and fraud, among other causes of action. On behalf of a class of New York and separately, a class of purchasers from nine states, the plaintiff seeks damages. His counsel is Sheehan & Associates P.C.

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