Unexpected backlash after CPSC recalls popular Fitbit Force

Showing the product's popularity, Fitbit Force users are refusing to give the fitness tracker up despite the CPSC officially recalling it.
March 14, 2014 12:02:08 AM PDT
There's a surprising reaction from people who use a popular fitness tracker. Seven on Your Side first broke the story of the Fitbit Force causing thousands of users to break out in a serious rash. On Wednesday the federal government officially recalled it. But now there's an unexpected backlash.

This shows just how much customers love the Fitbit Force. 10,000 people have reported terrible, mysterious rashes and the Consumer Product Safety Commission is telling all users to take them off. But Fitbit fans across the country refuse to give it up.

Shane Rogers of Belmont walks 10,000 steps every day. He keeps track by wearing his Fitbit Force.

Then he heard reports that a small percentage of Force users broke out in itchy, blistering rashes right where they wear the tracker.

"It didn't surprise me that people might have a reaction to the material," Rogers said.

He says he's been using his Force for more than four months. And his wrist is just fine. So he didn't worry about the rashes.

"It's a small percentage of customers or users that are having a reaction," Rogers said. "You know, spin it around and see how many people are not having a reaction."

So he didn't understand why the government banned the sale and took them off shelves.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission said 10,000 force customers reported breaking out in a rash. That's about one in 100 users.

The agency is now telling all Force users to return the product for a full refund, even if they didn't break out. The rash could come later.

"We have seen these reports of blistering," said Scott Wolfson with the CPSC during a phone interview. "Your station has reported on them before. We don't want anyone else to have blistering on their arms. So our message is, take advantage of that refund. Get your money back and be safe."

How did users respond? Mostly with a shrug.

"It's not impacting me and it's not impacting anybody that I know who's using the Force," Rogers said.

Reaction on Facebook was stronger. One user said, "You'll have to come fight me for it and pry it off my arm." Another said, "Keeping mine. Will send it back if my arm falls off."

And another user said she won't give it up, even though she has a rash on both wrists.

"We understand that there are many people that like the product," Wolfson said. "But we don't want to see a wave of more reports of serious blistering in the aftermath of this recall."

On the other hand, rash sufferers say the recall didn't go far enough.

"There's nothing that explains what we reacted to," Massachusetts resident Kim Reichelt said. "There's nothing that explains what the chemical was that we were exposed to."

Reichelt suffered an oozing rash months after wearing the Force. She hoped the recall would finally reveal a cause.

The CPSC said it cannot force the company to disclose that information.

"CPSC did not do an analysis of that product," Wolfson said. "It is a good question to ask Fitbit."

Fitbit said it conducted independent lab tests, but did not share data or say which lab did the work.

In a statement, CEO James Park said, "Test results show that users are likely experiencing allergic contact dermatitis. Some users may be reacting to the nickel present in the surgical stainless steel used in the device. Others are likely experiencing a reaction to materials used in the strap or the adhesives.'"

Rogers says none of that is cause for concern.

"Based on what I know and understand today, I will be wearing the Force," he said.

Fitbit has not responded to our request for information on what chemicals and materials are present in the product. We will continue to pursue that information.

No one is required to return the Force. But for more information on a refund, click here.

And for details from the CPSC about the Fitbit Force recall, click here.


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