Fitbit halts sale of Force fitness band, issues recall due to skin irritation

Owners of Fitbit's newest fitness band that have been experiencing skin issues are eligible for a full refund while a solution to the problem is reportedly in the works.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Fitbit Force health tracker -- a slim rubber wristband that counts steps and monitors one's sleep -- is meant to be worn at all hours of the day, unless you're one of the select users that have begun reporting mild to semi-severe skin irritation including rashes, itchy and dry patches, and even blisters.

Now, after weeks of building momentum, Fitbit is issuing a recall for its $129 Force product, refunding in full any affected owners while it reportedly works on releasing a replacement device.

"We have stopped selling Force and have decided to conduct a voluntary recall," Chief Executive James Park wrote on the company's blog Friday. Park noted that only 1.7 percent of owners have officially reported skin issues, adding that "the materials used in Force are commonly found in many consumer products, and affected users are likely experiencing an allergic reaction to these materials."

Those materials could be anything from the trace amounts of nickel used in the stainless steel components of the device, the latex-free elastomer materials used to craft the wristband, or the adhesives used to assemble the Force. "We hired independent labs and medical experts to conduct a thorough investigation, and have now learned enough to take further action," Park concluded.

The Force, an upgraded version of Fitbit's popular Flex band, was released in October of last year to strong reviews and fast sales. However, as early as the end of 2013, users began reporting strange rashes on the portion of skin that sits underneath the wristband, culminating in definitive accounts like the one posted by The Consumerist last month that documented the progression of the skin rash over the course of a week, and later by The Wall Street Journal, which revealed that Fitbit had offered at least one owner a financial settlement.

Fitbit originally responded last month by offering refunds or replacements for the Force with any other Fitbit product. But now that it's issued a full-blown recall, it appears as if the company has rescinded its offer to replace the Force with another product in its lineup and is instead focusing solely on refunding affected owners.

CNET has reached out to Fitbit to confirm that it will not be issuing replacement devices and will update this post when we hear back.

To apply for a refund, Fitbit Force owners can go to the company's dedicated recall Web page and fill out the form to receive a return kit. If your device is confirmed to be affected, a check will be sent out two to six of weeks after Fitbit received the device.

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About the author

Nick Statt is a staff writer for CNET. He previously wrote for ReadWrite and was a news associate at the social magazine app Flipboard. He spends a questionable amount of his free time contemplating his relationship with video games while continuously exploring the convergence of tech, science and pop culture.

 

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