The Federal Consumer Product Safety Commission delivered an official recall of the Fitbit Force activity tracker on March 12, 2014. The Fitbit company issued a voluntary recall of the popular device on February 20, but following continued reports of allergic-type reactions to the wristband the recall has become mandatory.
Under the recall, the Force cannot be sold or resold, even on Craigslist or EBay. Fitbit had stopped selling the Force on February 20 with their own recall announcement, but not all users were aware of it.
The Force is Fitbit’s latest model in wireless activity trackers. The wrist-worn device tracks sleep and activity, and includes a watch. The Force model of electronic wristbands has been sold since October, 2013, and sales continued until the voluntary recall in February.
Models FB402SL, FB402SLS, FB402BK, and FB402BKS, which retail for $129, are the ones subject to recall. The model number appears on the back of the device below the charging port.
Complaints from Force users include nearly 10,000 reports of skin irritation and 250 reports of blistering. Fitbit testing shows the irritation is “contact dermatitis,” which is red or inflamed skin from irritants or allergies. It is uncertain what users may be allergic to. Fitbit says it uses standard materials, none of which should be allergy-causing.
It is suspected that the reactions are due to materials used in the strap, the stainless steel casing, or the adhesives used to assemble the product. The stainless steel casing does contain nickel, which is a fairly common allergen. One theory is that the irritation may be because users are encouraged to wear the waterproof wristband day and night to track their activity and sleep, which creates the potential for trapping soap and other irritants under the band.
Fitbit is a San Francisco-based startup company, and is the clear leader in wearable technology, with over half the market in activity tracking devices. 1 million Force models have been sold in the United States, and 28,000 in Canada, which creates potential for a major hit to Fitbit with the official recall.
The company says it is offering a full refund on the Force tracker, and will email all Force users over next few weeks to advise them of the recall and the refund offer. However, their home page, www.fitbit.com, does not list any information about recall until the user clicks on “products” and then “Force Wireless Activity and Wristband.” At that point a popup notifies the user that they have stopped selling the Force and are conducting a voluntary recall. There no mention of the official recall.
Fitbit has three trackers still available which are not affected by the recall. Two are clip-on pocket models and one is a wrist band that does not include a watch. Prices ranges from $59.95 to $99.95. All track steps, distance, and calories burned and sync wirelessly to Mac, PCs and Bluetooth devices. They also make a “wi-fi smart scale,” which tracks weight, body fat percentage and BMI.
Fitbit says they are continuing to work on the next version of wristband, despite the official Force recall. Users may contact Fitbit at 888-656-6381 or fitbit.com for refund information.
By Beth A. Balen