MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — They thought they were buying a popular gadget to give them a better handle on their health. Instead, thousands of people ended up with a bad rash.
The Fitbit Force is a digital bracelet that measures your physical activity and sleep patterns, but it left some consumers with scars.
Now the company may end up in court.
“I just want to know what chemical entered my system to cause this kind of reaction,” said Sue Megrund, who bought her Fitbit Force in January.
Advertised as a way to track your daily activity, the Fitbit Force, which costs $130, took Megrund days to find.
Once she tracked one down, She was impressed by all she could see.
“How many steps you’ve taken, how many miles you’ve walked, how many calories you’ve burned,” she said.
But a month after wearing it on her wrists, she had no choice but to track something else.
“On February 20, when I woke up, the rash was on both my wrists,” Megrund said.
It was red scabby rash, and a similar one also broke out on Angie Gabrelcik’s wrists.
Working as a nurse, Gabrelcik said she saw at least 30 patients in her clinic wanting treatment for the very same thing.
“It was just kind of surprising how many people were affected, so something wasn’t right,” Gabrelcik said.
Fitbit sold the Force beginning in October. Some consumers started to complain of a rash just weeks later. The company blamed it on an allergic reaction to nickel.
Thousands of complaints poured in until mid-March when the Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a recall and Fitbit stopped selling the Force altogether.
The company now says 1.7 percent of Force users broke out and did so because of an allergic contact dermatitis. It could stem from the stainless steel, materials in the strap, or adhesives used in its assembly.
“I think they’ve been taking a really long time to figure this out,” Megrund said.
More than a month later, she still has scars.
Fitbit is still selling three other products and says it’s “working on its next generation tracker right now.”
“I’d want to know that they did better research for this next product I guess,” Gabrelcik said.
However, both Gabrelcik and Megrund say they’ll walk away from whatever comes next.
“It’s not worth the risk of the damage it could cause people,” Megrund said.
A class-action lawsuit has been filed against Fitbit in California. It asks the company to contact every Force owner and arrange a refund for the product along with tax and shipping fees. Fitbit says it’s already done that.
For immediate concerns or more information on how to receive a full refund/exchange for a new product, users can visit www.fitbit.com/forcesupport or call 888-656-6381.