FitBit issues refunds after bracelet causes rashes

San Francisco's Fitbit is issuing consumers a refund after one of their fitness tracking bracelets caused rashes.
January 17, 2014 12:00:00 AM PST
We have told you about the growing popularity of fitness trackers -- those devices that measure your activity to help get in shape. One of the leading makers of trackers is based in San Francisco and there's a big problem with its newest product. A number of people have broken out in a rash as a result.

FitbBit's latest product is called Force. Users have raved about how it helps them lose weight by measuring their steps, calories, and sleep patterns. However, several users also say it has caused a serious skin reaction. Now the company is responding.

Whether they are running, walking, or just going about business, millions of folks these days are wearing fitness trackers to help get in shape.

"It will calculate your calories. It will tell you how many active minutes you had during the day," said FitBit user Diane Barlow of Dublin.

For years Barlow wore trackers made by FitBit of San Francisco. They helped her lose 90 pounds by counting steps she took and calories she burned.

"If I've had a really sedentary day and I see the numbers are low I'll perhaps walk an extra lap at night with the dogs," Barlow said.

And so she was thrilled when she got the newest FitBit product for Christmas -- a wristband called Force.

"It was great, I really liked it. I could look at my phone and see how many steps I had taken," Barlow said.

Then one day, a mysterious rash broke out on her wrist.

"I noticed this big red itchy spot on my wrist, which I thought was a spider bite," Barlow said.

Soon there were two oozing sores. She took pictures as they grew bigger. She still thought they were spider bites, so she put the FitBit on her other arm.

"And two days later I got the same thing on the other bone of my wrist. I thought oh that's kind of bizarre," Barlow said.

So she rotated the device and was stunned when a third rash broke out on one of her arms.

"So I went online to the forums on the FitBit site and found out there's lots of people having this issue," Barlow said.

Sure enough, the FitBit website has several pages of comments of discussion by Fitbit Force users who say they broke out in the same kind of rash. Some people posted pictures of the sores on their arms.

"People are saying, 'Well put some electrical tape on it,'" Barlow said.

Later FitBit released a statement saying, "We are aware some FitBit customers have reported a skin irritation from wearing their Force device. We conduct testing in order to satisfy a variety of internationally accepted standards relating to the safety of the materials in our devices. As with any jewelry or watch, numerous factors could cause a skin irritation, such as nickel sensitivity, reactions to bacteria that can accumulate in wristbands, or a sensitivity to the material of the band, elastomer."

Barlow never went to her doctor and instead used an anti-itch medicine. After nearly three weeks, the sores are still there.

She did get a refund when she returned the band and she contacted 7 On Your Side. We contacted FitBit.

FitBit declined our request for an on camera interview, saying it was still investigating the cause of the rashes.

It would not say how many customers have complained. However, the company did release an updated statement saying, "We are looking into reports from a very limited number of FitBit Force users who have been experiencing skin irritation, possibly as a result of an allergy to nickel, an element of surgical-grade stainless steel used in the device. We suggest that consumers experiencing any irritation discontinue using the product and contact FitBit if they have additional questions. Customers may also contact FitBit for an immediate refund or replacement with a different FitBit product. We are sorry that even a few consumers have experienced these problems and assure you that we are looking at ways to modify the product so that anyone can wear the FitBit Force comfortably. "

Barlow says she wishes she could use the device. "I loved it. I really didn't want to have to give it up," she said.

FitBit said it will keep 7 On Your Side up to date once it determines the cause of the rashes and the number of people affected. We'll keep you informed as well.

Meanwhile, if you want a refund for your FitBit Force you can email them at: force@fitbit.com


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