A proposed class action alleges the Bluetooth hands-free phone system found in certain Toyota vehicles can produce an echo as the result of an apparent defect in the “head unit” hardware and/or software made by the automaker.
The 57-page lawsuit alleges Toyota has known of the apparent “echo defect,” which supposedly plagues vehicles sold over the last decade, since at least 2007 yet has failed to notify drivers prior to their purchase or lease of the cars. The so-called echo defect “makes continuation of the phone conversation impossible to maintain,” and exists “regardless of whether the Toyota driver initiates or receives a phone call” or whether the person on the other end is using a cell phone, landline or hands-free phone system in a vehicle, the complaint says.
Per the lawsuit, language in the owner’s manuals of Toyota models dating back to the 2010 Tundra describes the vehicles’ Bluetooth capabilities. The Toyota models allegedly hampered by the echo defect, called the “class vehicles,” include the 4Runner, Avalon, Avalon HV, Camry, Camry HV, Highlander, Highlander HV, Prius, Prius V, Sequoia, Sienna, Tacoma, Tundra and Yaris.
Stressed in the complaint is that while Toyota publicized the hands-free Bluetooth capabilities of its vehicles, many models nevertheless suffer from the echo problem, making it “nearly impossible” for drivers to use their hands-free phone systems, the lawsuit says.
According to the suit, Toyota’s apparent knowledge of the echo defect is “demonstrated” by statements within its owner and navigation owner manuals. Pet the case, the manuals state, in part, that “an echo may be heard” if the received call volume is overly loud. Similarly, Toyota states in the same section that keeping the volume of the receiving voice down is necessary to combat the echo, the suit says, claiming Toyota “acknowledged that voice echo is inherent in the system.”
Mentions of an echo pop up in the owner’s manuals for nearly all of the vehicle models listed above, the suit relays. At any rate, complaints about the apparent echo defect have been present for years in online forums, according to the case.
The lawsuit argues that the existence of the echo defect is material to drivers in that a reasonable consumer would likely consider it important to know that a vehicle’s hands-free phone system may produce a “severe” echo when the person on the other end speaks. Moreover, knowledge of an echo issue with a Toyota’s Bluetooth system would likely induce a consumer to change their decision to buy or lease one of the defendants’ vehicles, the case says.
According to the complaint, Toyota began offering with certain 2019 and all 2020 vehicle models Apple CarPlay hardware and software. Upon information and belief, the case says, calls made via Apple CarPlay “do not manifest the Echo Defect.”
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