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How Smart is Siri? Apple Faces False and Misleading Advertising Suits

December 11, 2012

Authors: Jennifer McKenzieTamarah Luk and Mike Canniffe

A pair of proposed class actions have been launched in Quebec and Saskatchewan against Apple Inc. and Apple Canada Inc. (collectively, “Apple”) concerning its advertising campaign promoting the “Siri” feature on the popular iPhone 4S smartphone.

Both suits allege that Apple’s advertising of Siri was “fundamentally and designedly false and misleading” and that the company “knew or should have known that the iPhone 4S does not perform in accordance with the advertisements and marketing materials they disseminated.” Further, Apple apparently “never disclosed that the Siri transactions depicted in its advertisements are fiction and that actual consumers using actual iPhone 4S’s cannot reasonably [sic.] expect Siri to perform the tasks performed in these advertisements.”

Siri, a voice activated “intelligent digital assistant”, allows users to access and interact with a wide variety of the smartphone’s features through voice commands. The television and online advertisements depict the software responding quickly and without difficulty to tasks such as dictation and requests for directions, traffic, and weather updates. The complaint notes the disclaimer regarding the “beta” status of the Siri software which appears “buried in” Apple’s website is absent from the marketing materials.

It is not the first time that Apple has attracted a class action lawsuit claiming misleading advertising of Siri. A similar case was filed before the U.S. District Court in San Jose, California mere weeks before the Canadian cases.

The potential Canadian plaintiff class arguably presents a stronger case for Apple to defend, because, in contrast to the U.S., Apple has not yet enabled Siri’s “location-based features” in Canada, which were features allegedly advertised in Canada nonetheless.

Whether or not either class action will be judicially certified to proceed in Canada remains to be seen.

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Jennifer McKenzie Jennifer McKenzie
B.A. (Hons.), LL.B.
416.957.1628  email Jennifer McKenzie