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Apple has been sued because of the alleged ineffectiveness of the Apple Watch’s blood oxygen reader on people of colour.

tA federal class-action lawsuit has been filed against Apple, alleging that the blood oxygen reader in the Apple Watch produces inaccurate results for people of colour.

According to Morales’ attorney Spencer Sheehan, the suit, filed Saturday in New York on behalf of plaintiff Alex Morales, draws on old and new pandemic-era literature that shows pulse oximeter technology is ineffective in measuring blood oxygen levels in darker skin tones.

During the pandemic, overburdened hospitals used the devices to determine oxygen levels in COVID-19 patients and aid in treatment decisions. The FDA recently launched a review of the technology with the goal of making recommendations to make it effective on all skin types.

However, it is unknown whether Apple employs the same technology as a standard pulse oximeter. It refers to its feature as “Blood Oxygen” and describes it as “breathtaking innovation” online. It also measures blood oxygen at the wrist rather than the fingertip as pulse oximeters do.

Sheehan described the app’s ineffectiveness claim in the lawsuit as a “reasonable inference” based on existing knowledge about the limitations of pulse oximeters with regard to skin colour.

According to Apple’s website, “permanent or temporary changes” to the skin, such as tattoos, may affect the blood oxygen reading.

The ink, pattern, and saturation of some tattoos can block light from the sensor, making it difficult for the Blood Oxygen app to obtain a measurement, according to Apple’s website. However, the page makes no mention of a person’s natural skin colour.

According to the lawsuit, Morales purchased an Apple Watch with the blood oxygen reader feature between 2020 and 2021.

He believed the watch claimed to measure his blood oxygen levels “regardless of skin tone,” and he “would not have purchased” or “paid as much” for the watch if he had known otherwise.

Sheehan, a New York-based lawyer and known prolific filer of consumer class-action lawsuits, predicted that Apple would argue that the product warns consumers that it is not intended for medical use.

“No, you won’t find this in a drugstore or a medical supply store,” Sheehan told USA TODAY. “However, if a product is presented as a feature that is described as a… blood oxygen monitor, you would expect it to function regardless of a person’s skin colour.”

Apple is accused of breaking several laws, including New York state law and a federal multi-state class action law that prohibits “deceptive business practises.”

It claims Apple committed fraud and unjust enrichment by misrepresenting the capabilities of its products and seeks a jury trial.

Apple’s attorneys were not listed in online court documents at the time of publication, despite the fact that Apple had received official notice of the lawsuit on Tuesday.

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