Seven months after Fitbit recalled all of its Ionic smartwatches in March, many customers say they have still not received compensation for the potentially defective product.
Fitbit sold about 1 million Ionic watches in the US, in addition to nearly 700,000 internationally before ceasing production in 2020, with the company reportedly planning to release an updated version in the future. Still, consumers continued to use the product and a small percentage of users began to complain that the battery was overheating. That prompted Fitbit to recall all of its Ionic devices due to a potential fire hazard. Fitbit had received at least 115 reports of the watch’s battery overheating in the US. According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, 78 people in the US reported burns, 2 reported third-degree burns, and 4 reported second-degree burns. Internationally, 59 people reported that the watch had overheated and 40 reported burns.
In the recall notice, the agency said customers should immediately stop using the watch and contact Fitbit to return the device. After returning the device, Fitbit – what was acquired by Google—said consumers would get a $299 refund and a coupon code for 40% off select Fitbit products. After registering for the refund and verifying their account, Fitbit said the money would be spent in three to six weeks, according to an email viewed by londonbusinessblog.com.
It is impossible to say exactly how many customers have still not received their promised payments. But the topic has become a recurring theme on Fitbit’s community council and social media, where consumers complain about customer service every day. “This whole process has been ridiculous from the start,” said one user on the company’s board. “The longer it takes, the less likely I’ll ever buy from them again,” wrote another.
Eva Lantsoght, a Fitbit customer living in Ecuador, wanted to be strategic in starting the return process for her Ionic. Lantsoght waited until June when she made a long journey to the Netherlands to return and replace her device.
While in the Netherlands, Lantsoght deactivated the Ionic she bought before the pandemic, ordered a new device with the discount code provided by Fitbit, and filled out the necessary information for a refund. Fitbit gave a generic message that it would take three to six weeks. When six weeks passed without any information, Lantsoght contacted the company. The company said it had many requests and it could take a little longer.
Lantsoght has since returned to Ecuador and still has not received the discount. “I especially want to know what to expect. If they tell me now, ‘We are really overwhelmed, it will take three months’, I’ll take that; and then I’ll continue in three months’, she says.
A Fitbit spokesperson says: londonbusinessblog.com that the company has received a large sum of false refund registrations, causing a time-consuming backlog of refund requests.
“We apologize to customers affected by delays in device refunds. Unexpected issues affect our ability to process customer refunds as quickly as we would like. We continue to work to make the process as easy as possible for our users and have added dedicated service agents to validate and process claims faster,” the spokesperson said.
Other customers say: londonbusinessblog.com they’ve experienced equally long wait times with little guidance from Fitbit. “I called them three to four times, jumping from call center to call center,” said another via Twitter DMs.
Product recalls are a common occurrence for both new and existing goods. When something is recalled, companies often have to bear the cost of replacing or refunding those with affected goods. Therefore, recalls can lead to millions or billions of dollars in losses. It’s not clear how much Fitbit is putting into these efforts. Fitbit, of course, has one of the largest lenders to shoulder those costs: Google closed its acquisition of Fitbit last year for $2.1 billion.
But product recalls can also lead to dissatisfaction with the company and its products. After Fitbit recalled the Ionic devices, two women filed a lawsuit in California federal court said many of the company’s smartwatches were prone to overheating and burning their users. Within that same lawsuit, the complaint also refers to the company’s recall process, saying, “It’s just a facade to show that Defendant is ‘doing the right thing,’ but in fact the recall only protects Defendant’s profits by suppressing refunds by using methods and techniques that make it difficult for consumers to obtain compensation for their defective watches.”
Fitbit declined to comment on the suit.