By Brandon Johnson

On October 6, 2015, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Assembly Bill 1116 (A.B. 1116), which regulates the manner in which smart TVs must notify users of voice-recognition technology and may use recorded voice commands.  The bill, which was passed unanimously by both houses of the California legislature earlier this year, will go into effect on January 1, 2016.

The recently enacted law requires manufacturers of smart TVs to inform customers about the voice-recognition features during the TVs’ initial setup or installation.  It also bars the sale or use of any speech captured by voice-recognition technology for advertising purposes.  Under A.B. 1116, the California Attorney General and district attorneys are authorized to seek injunctive relief and up to $2500 in civil penalties for each television sold or leased in violation of its provisions.  The law does not, however, provide consumers with a private right of action.

Electronics manufacturers should note that the scope of A.B. 1116 is relatively limited: it applies only to video devices that are “designed for home use to receive television signals and reproduce them on an integrated, physical screen display that exceeds 12 inches” and expressly excludes from coverage various other devices that can be used to access video content, such as personal computers, portable devices, set-top boxes, video game consoles, and digital video recorders.  The law also limits manufacturer liability to the functionality available at the point of sale, so any applications installed or downloaded by a customer thereafter would not implicate the provisions of A.B. 1116.