Fitbit issued a voluntary recall of its Fitbit Force after discovering that prolonged use could lead to skin irritation likely due to allergy to some of the materials used in its construction, but now the recall is official with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, making it illegal to resell (like on eBay) the existing Force at all, and revealing some details about the scope of the recall.
Around 1 million units in the U.S. and about 28,000 in Canada are included in the recall, which gives some idea about Fitbit’s sales number for its wearable activity tracker since the device’s introduction back in October last year.
Besides providing some context for how far-reaching the recall is, this also gives us a rare peek behind the curtain at how many units are being sold by the leading device makers in this category. We’ve seen info about sales share and cumulative totals, but manufacturers have been mostly quiet on unit shipment or sales numbers for individual models.
What we can glean from the Fitbit Force rough shipment numbers is that the activity tracker market is still mostly one with niche appeal, and nowhere near the consumer sales numbers of devices like smartphones or tablets. Still, one million moved in roughly one quarter isn’t half bad for a startup working in an emerging consumer hardware product category.
Fitbit can probably bounce back from this recall without being set back too much, although part of that will be determined by how quickly they can get the Force back onto store shelves to capitalize on strong consumer interest. Only 1.7 percent of Force owners reported being affected by the issue that prompted the recall, according to the company itself, and anecdotally, I know a lot of owners who are hanging on to their first-generation hardware.
We’ve contacted Fitbit for additional comment on the numbers and this development, and will update if they have anything to add.
Update: Fitbit provided the following information about the recall -
The Fitbit Force voluntary recall was officially announced today by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Fitbit has stopped selling Force and is currently working with the CPSC to conduct a recall. For immediate concerns or more information on how to receive a full refund/exchange for a new product, users can please visit: http://www.fitbit.com/forcesupport or call: 888-656-6381.
· Fitbit is working on its next-generation tracker and will announce details soon.
· Fitbit has stopped selling Force and is currently working with the CPSC to conduct a recall. The recall was officially announced by CPSC and Fitbit on March 12.
· A thorough analysis by independent labs and medical experts revealed that the reactions reported by a small percentage of Force users were likely the result of allergic contact dermatitis.
· Some users may be reacting to the stainless steel used in the device—although it is surgical grade and meets the most stringent regulatory standards—while others are likely experiencing an allergic reaction to the materials in the strap or the adhesives used to assemble the product.
· Fitbit launched an investigation immediately upon discovering that there was an issue and has been working with medical experts to determine the cause of the skin irritation. Fitbit has worked with the CPSC on the voluntary recall plan.
· Fitbit will be emailing all Force users over the next few weeks so that they are aware of the recall and the offer of a refund for full retail price. This will complement the outreach efforts via community forums and other venues.
· Users can find more details on our website: http://www.fitbit.com/forcesupport or by calling our dedicated call center at: 888-656-6381.