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Law & Litigation Blog

Woman Sues Vibrator Company

The internet is abuzz today with headlines like “Too Sensitive? Sex toy maker sued over collection of intimate data” and “Smart Sex Toy Maker Sued for Sneakily Collecting ‘Intimate’ Data.” 

By far the most tactful and politically correct is the Chicago Tribune’s article, entitled “Lawsuit claims smartphone-enabled massage device violated privacy.” Yes, the Chicago Tribune called a vibrator that can be controlled with a cellphone a “smartphone-enabled massage device.”

consumer-protection-law

As you probably gathered from these headlines, a woman is suing a sex toy company for supposedly collecting “intimate data” from users of one of its vibrators. She purchased a “We-Vibe Rave” from a Chicago-area retailer for $130 in May, according to the lawsuit.

First, lets discuss the Plaintiff. The lawsuit names her only by her initials – N.P. (This is not uncommon in cases involving sensitive subjects.) N.P. must be very confident. For one, she bought the vibrator in person from a “retailer," not over the internet. She then contacted a law firm, met with one or more attorneys and/or paralegals, explained that she uses the product, stated her qualms with the company’s data collection practices, and agreed to be the named plaintiff in a lawsuit.

It is highly unlikely she simply marched in to the law firm, outraged, demanding to take legal action – it is more likely that someone read about the data collection policies and enticed her to meet with the law firm. Still, it takes some balls to agree to be the named plaintiff in this class action lawsuit. I envision her being sort of like Aya Cash’s fiery character in the TV show You’re The Worst, who says things like “as my Grandma always said, it’s only the walk of shame if you’re capable of feeling shame” and uses Christmas lights as an extension cord for her vibrator in her cluttered apartment.

The Plaintiff’s law firm, Edelson PC, is also unique. It is constantly mentioned on the Above The Law blog for things like emphasizing a “relaxed office culture,” providing free lunches to associates, elaborate pranks, and a creative pay structure.

Now, on to the We-Vibe Rave. The women who bought it got a little more than they bargained for. Soon after the purchase, N.P. downloaded the companion “We-Connect app,” which allows the user to control the vibrator with their smartphone (or that of a partner). Settings enabled by the app allow partners to "exchange text messages, engage in video chats and control the device from remote locations” through a paired smartphone. “

Touch, tease and turn her on from anywhere with the free We-Connect smartphone app,” the product description on amazon.com boasts. N.P. used the device “on several occasions” but allegedly was never informed that each time she turned on the app, the company was monitoring her activities and collecting “usage details” and other “personally identifiable” information.

It is not entirely clear what “usage details” exactly were being stored. One can certainly speculate. Presumably, this information would allow the company to optimize its products and better focus its marketing?

The lawsuit claims the We-Vibe violates the federal Wiretap Act and the Illinois Eavesdropping Statute by intentionally intercepting electronic communications without consent. It also alleges the company violated Illinois' Consumer Fraud Act. A total buzz kill to the company, no doubt. At the very least, this case probably has more merit than the “cold coffee” lawsuit against Starbucks.

“Good thing I didn't get the app,” said a Cincinnati-area woman who asked to remain anonymous, adding “that thing is crap anyway.”

 

Alex Durst is a Cincinnati consumer protection law attorney with The Durst Law FirmLicensed in Ohio, Alex has also practiced in Missouri, Florida, Indiana, California, Nevada, Massachusetts, and Kentucky. Alex can be reached at (513) 621-2500 or alex@durstlawfirm.com.