Girardi | Keese

Defective activity tracking bracelets trigger user complaints

The company behind a new line of digital health monitoring devices could be facing litigation after a score of complaints from customers who developed rashes and blisters after wearing them. The Fitbit Force is an electronic bracelet embedded with software that captures data about the wearer and can be synced with a computer for tracking purposes.

These bracelets were designed to provide in-depth nutrition, activity and sleep information so the wearer could modify their activity and behaviors to facilitate a healthier lifestyle. While the primary function of these bracelets isn't at issue – none of these allegations center around data tracking functionality – but the design of these apparently defective products is.

The chief complaints from disgruntled users who purchased these bracelets (at a cost of about $130 retail) stem from them following package directions exactly yet still developing red, flaky, itchy and painful rashes after wearing them. Some wearers experienced a more severe reaction where the affected skin actually blistered and scarred. 

The manufacturer of these and other health information-gathering devices, Fitbit, responded to customer complaints by halting sale of the Force line of products and issuing a recall in mid-March. The company did so after concluding that approximately 1.7 percent of users experienced an allergic reaction to materials used in the manufacturing process (including stainless steel, rubber, various adhesives and others).

In conjunction with the recall, the company offered a refund or replacement to those customers reporting problems. For some users, simply getting a refund isn't sufficient to compensate them for the pain, blistering and scarring that occured from their proper use of the Force; at least one legal action has already been filed, and it is possible that more could occur in the near future. 

Source: CBS Minnesota (WCCO), "Digital Bracelet Company May End Up In Court After Rash Reports," Liz Collin, April 8, 2014.

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