— Toyota Bluetooth echo problems have caused a class action lawsuit that alleges when the driver of the Toyota uses the hands-free phone system to make or receive a call, the person on the other end of the call hears an echo of their own words.
This allegedly makes the Bluetooth call conversation impossible because Toyota drivers are expected to decrease the volume to the point of not hearing the conversations.
According to the lawsuit, the two plaintiffs seek to represent all consumers who reside in Missouri and purchased or leased Toyota Highlander, Avalon, Sienna, Prius V, Tacoma, Sequoia, Prius, Tundra, Avalon HV, Yaris, 4Runner or Highlander HV vehicles that:
"[W]ithin the applicable period of limitations preceding the filing of this lawsuit to the date of class certification, has or had a defect such that during use of the vehicle’s hands-free phone system, the person on the other end of a phone call hears an echo of his or her own words."
The two plaintiffs claim Toyota has known about the Bluetooth echo problems since at least 2007 because multiple owner's manuals admit there can be echo with the systems. However, the lawsuit alleges customers aren't aware of the echo problems until after they purchase the vehicles.
In addition, the plaintiffs claim Toyota fails to properly fix the alleged problems even when the vehicles are still covered by their warranties.
One of the plaintiffs is Missouri resident Terry Freeman, who purchased a used 2018 Toyota Highlander from CarMax in February 2019. The plaintiff says he set up the Bluetooth hands-free system but people on the other end of the line told him they heard their own words echo back to them.
The plaintiff took his Toyota Highlander to a dealer in March for its 20,000-mile checkup and told technicians the Bluetooth echo problems needed to be repaired. The dealership allegedly said the vehicle needed a software update to repair the echo problem, but Freeman says the echo remained.
According to the plaintiff, he looked for technical service bulletins (TSBs) that are sent to dealerships about issues customers may complain about, but all he could find was a "Tech Tip" called, “Bluetooth Hands Free Call Echo” which was published on March 9, 2018, for these models:
- 2016-2018 Toyota Highlander
- 2017-2018 Toyota Avalon
- 2016-2018 Toyota Sienna
- 2016-2018 Toyota Prius V
- 2016-2018 Toyota Tacoma
- 2016-2018 Toyota Sequoia
- 2016-2018 Toyota Prius
- 2016-2018 Toyota Tundra
- 2017-2018 Toyota Avalon HV
- 2018 Toyota Yaris
- 2017-2018 Toyota 4Runner
- 2016-2018 Toyota Highlander HV
The message to dealer technicians said:
“Some customers may experience echoing on the line calling the vehicle when using Bluetooth Hands Free. This is caused by the phone Hands Free volume being too low. These settings may need to be reapplied any time the phone is paired to a new head unit, a phone update is applied, or the phone is un-paired and re-paired.”
Toyota recommended to, “Initiate a phone call and increase the volume on the phone to max volume using the volume up button on the side of the phone, then lower the head unit volume to 45 or lower.”
However, lowering the volume to the point of getting rid of the echo also allegedly means the volume is too low to hear the conversation while driving.
Freeman says he contacted Toyota through its website and told customer support representatives about the Bluetooth echo problems. Toyota allegedly responded by telling the plaintiff to call a toll free number to ensure Toyota had all the correct information.
Freeman responded by saying Toyota already knew of the echo problem and asked the customer service rep how they were going to fix his problem.
The plaintiff asked for a written response to his questions instead of being provided a toll free number, and in April the automaker emailed him and said, “While we understand your request to correspond via email, Toyota does not offer an email selection for product concerns. Since you stated you are having a product concern with Bluetooth, due to the nature of this concern, we request you contact our office.”
Mr. Freeman says he had no choice but to call Toyota, but Toyota's answer was to bring the vehicle in for service. The plaintiff says it would have been a waste of time because the vehicle had already been to a dealership.
Multiple owner's manuals warn consumers about possible echos that may be heard when using the hands-free phone systems, including the 2008 Toyota Highlander that says:
“If the received call volume is overly loud, an echo may be heard. Keep the volume of the receiving voice down. Otherwise, voice echo will increase."
Because Toyota says “voice echo will increase” rather than “voice echo will occur,” the lawsuit alleges Toyota acknowledges that voice echo is inherent in the system.
According to the plaintiff, a potential customer still won't know how serious the echo problem is even if they read an owner's manual before purchasing a Toyota vehicle. Additionally, a typical consumer wouldn't purchase the vehicle if they knew about the Bluetooth echo problems.
The Toyota Bluetooth echo class action lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri - Freeman, et al., v. Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. et al.