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Fitbit stops selling Force activity tracker, issues voluntary recall

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Fitbit has stopped selling the popular Force activity tracking band after learning that a small percentage of users have been experiencing skin irritation. The company has also issued a voluntary recall.

Fitbit (see disclosure) provided the following statement to Gigaom:

“From the beginning, we’ve taken this matter very seriously. We hired independent labs and medical experts to conduct a thorough investigation, and have now learned enough to take further action. The materials used in Force are commonly found in many consumer products, and affected users are likely experiencing an allergic reaction to these materials.

While only a small percentage of Force users have reported any issue, we care about every one of our customers. We have stopped selling Force and are in the process of conducting a voluntary recall, out of an abundance of caution. We are also offering a refund directly to consumers for full retail price. We want to thank each and every member of the Fitbit community for their continued loyalty and support. We are working on our next-generation tracker and will announce news about it soon.”

Fitbit CEO James Park goes into more detail on the Fitbit Force support page. He outlines the findings from the medical studies, which include:

  • Independent test results have not found any issues with the battery or electrical systems.
  • Test results show that users are likely experiencing allergic contact dermatitis.
  • All Force materials are commonly used in consumer products. However, some users may be reacting to the nickel present in the surgical grade stainless steel used in the device. Other users are likely experiencing an allergic reaction to the materials used in the strap or the adhesives used to assemble the product.

Fitbit claims that only 1.7 percent of users have experienced an issue, and has been offering refunds to affected users since this news first appeared.

The company doesn’t say when its “next-generation tracker” will be available, but if you currently have a Force and you want to return it, Fitbit is refunding consumers directly for the full retail price. There’s a dedicated page on its website for more information or a call center at 888-656-6381.

Disclosure: Fitbit is backed by True Ventures, a venture capital firm that is an investor in the parent company of Gigaom. Om Malik, founder of Gigaom, is also a venture partner at True.

6 Responses to “Fitbit stops selling Force activity tracker, issues voluntary recall”

  1. Sathish Rao

    Total Recall is certainly an overreaction, but their such commitment to customers is commendable & interesting especially when the bigwigs (Samsung, HTC, LG, Apple) are rumoured to be lined up to launch their Fitness trackers..

  2. I used to get a skin irritation from my watch on my left wrist, but when I switched to the right wrist, no problem. I have a Flex and wear it on my right wrist pretty much 24/7–again, no problem. However, I wear it slightly loose.

    I admire FitBit’s commitment to their customers, but a total recall seems extreme. I would have thought a refund to affected customers and research into a better material for the wristband would be fine.

  3. I got the Force for Christmas. A month later I noticed some slight redness on my wrist where the connector on the Force is located. A couple days later I had a full rash about an inch squared in size. I stopped wearing the Force and my skin is slowly going back to normal after a few weeks. I’ve worn other electronics including the pebble watch without issue.

  4. Huh. I know several folks with the Force and none of us have experienced this issue. I’ve worn it pretty much non-stop for the past 80 days, haven’t had any remote irritation, and have relatively sensitive skin, generally speaking. I guess your mileage may vary. Still, it seems like a fairly strong step for a pretty small percentage of affected customers…