A sick Fitbit and a disputed consumer remedy

When Jerry Bellamy’s Fitbit stops working after a few months, the company replaces it with another one that also eventually breaks. Should the company replace it again, or is a discount enough compensation?

Question: I purchased a Fitbit, a wearable activity tracker, and it failed within 12 months and was replaced with the same kind of unit. The second tracker also failed about 15 months after activation. I contacted Fitbit’s customer service department by phone and email, but was told the unit was “out of warranty” and offered a 25 percent discount on any new tracker.

I don’t think that’s enough. I would like a new replacement for trackers that failed, although I don’t have confidence another refurbished replacement would fare any better. I’ve seen many similar stories from other consumers in your column. It seems the product was of inferior quality to start with but company continued selling the item and replacing any failures within the 12-month warranty. It just appears to be a money grab at the consumer’s expense. Can you help me get a new Fitbit? — Jerry Bellamy, Port St. Lucie, Fla.

Answer: Your Fitbit should have worked, no ifs, ands or buts. And when it didn’t, Fitbit should have replaced it with a unit that didn’t break down.

But your question is interesting. As I was researching your case, I tried to find the average lifespan for a wearable device like your fitness tracker. I stumbled upon something far more relevant: a survey that suggested more than 50 percent of all users no longer use their activity tracker, and a third of those stopped using the device within six months of buying it.

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In other words, the fact that you wanted to keep using your Fitbit made you something of an anomaly. But a good anomaly. Fitbit should want to keep customers like you happy.

So why didn’t it do more? Well, it met the terms of its warranty, which states that it will either repair the product at no charge, using new or refurbished replacement parts, or will replace the Fitbit with a new or refurbished unit.

Your replacement Fitbit lasted for 15 months, which is well outside your warranty. Most users would just throw away their device and buy another one, but not you. You paid $149 of your hard-earned money for that piece of technology, and you wanted to fight this on principle.

I applaud you for that. Companies should not manufacture products that break down after only a few months. They should not be able to hide behind their warranties when their technology expires prematurely.

In your case, you were both wrong and right. Wrong in the sense that you had no legal claim. But right in that you had a right to speak up when Fitbit didn’t live up to its promise to provide products and experiences “that fit seamlessly into your life so you can achieve your health and fitness goals, whatever they may be.” Your unit didn’t really do that.

You could have appealed to an executive — I list the names, numbers and email addresses of Fitbit executives on my website — but instead, you contacted me. I reached out to Fitbit on your behalf, and it quickly agreed to replace your product with a new Fitbit Charge 2, its latest model. I’m happy to report that so far, it works.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at chris@elliott.org.

  • finance_tony

    So what is the responsibility of a manufacturer here? If a product has a 12-month warranty, is it off the hook if it gets you to 12 months using the original plus a string of replacements? Or does each replacement have to last an additional 12 months, theoretically to perpetuity?

    Either way, I’m glad for the OP, but not sure why – other than putting grease on a squeaky wheel – FitBit would have responsibility to him. The replacement not only got him to the original 12 months, but it lasted 15 months itself.

  • Pegtoo

    Most major charge cards double the warranty of purchases. Something to remember.

  • LDVinVA

    He got considerably more service from the second device than the warranty promises. A bit greedy, I think. Nice of the company to accommodate him, but I think he got more than he paid for.

  • cscasi

    I am glad Chris and company got it worked out. Many times consumers have to fight to get what they consider justice.


    I am curious about the timeline. When did the first Fitbit die? The OP says within the 12-month warranty period. That could be anywhere from 1 day to right before the warranty expired. Since the time is vague I will guess that it was toward the end of the period. He got a replacement that lasted for 15 month after activation. So say the first one died when he had it 9 months and then got one that lasted an additional 15 months we are talking 2 years here–far exceeding the 12-month warranty. Good of Fitbit to have replaced it again but I agree with Finance Tony on this one.

  • Pat

    If the Fitbit lasted 15 months and was out of warranty, the 25% off offer was an acceptable resolution. Any fitness tracker goes through a lot of abuse if it is consistently used, which makes them prone to break. They are not going to last forever. The battery can fail because it exceeded the number of times it can be recharged. The band can break because it was caught in something. The electronics can fail because sweat or rain finally got inside the case. In today’s world, many electronics are considered throwaway and replace when they fail.

  • kimber

    After having gone through several Jabra Ups and being on my second Fitbit that also had to be replaced before a year was up, I have come to realize that these things are made to be disposable. This has led to a love/hate relationship. I like tracking my steps, but this waste is ridiculous. It’s not even the money; it’s throwing another one of these things in the garbage every few months. No wonder the earth is turning on us all. I don’t particularly want an Apple Watch, but if it would at least last two or three years, it might be worth it.

  • Harvey-6-3.5

    My wife also had a fitbit that died very young (but I just replaced it rather than try to deal with the warranty).

  • Annie M

    I had a Fitbit Charge that was replaced 4 times in a year. The thing would work a few weeks and then stop taking charges. After the 4th replacement I threw it out. My first Fitbit lasted years. I bought an Apple Watch and use the fitness tracker. No more problems.

  • Annie M

    I had one replaced 4 times in a year. My first Fitbit lasted for several years without a problem. That’s what I expected from my upgraded Fitbit and it was a piece of junk. I would expect it to last longer than 15 months.

  • Annie M

    My Fitbit lasted 3 months. Second one failed in 6 weeks, third one in 9 weeks, 4th lasted 3 months. I didn’t get a year out of any of them. That speaks for its quality and whatever they do to refurbish them.

  • Annie M

    That’s what’s I did. 4 Fitbit Chargers in the garbage in one year. The Apple Watch hasn’t had a problem at all.

  • disqus_wK5MCy17IP

    I posted this on your last Fitbit piece. Both of my Fitbits needed to be replaced within the year and then both stopped working again. Both times their initial email offered me a second replacement and then reneged before sending the product. In both cases I stated in my initial email that it was just outside the year, but I guess the reps didn’t read that before replying. With the most recent Charge HR, the band started falling apart within 6 months, but I didn’t contact them right away. The replacement also completely fell apart within 6 months, so that would have been twice I could have had it replaced within the year, but because I didn’t reach out right away the first time it was past the year warranty. Fitbit denied my request for a replacement. I’m not going to spend $150 every year for a device that should last longer at that price point. Soon after my request was denied a case was posted here where an advocate was given a replacement through a contact they had at Fitbit. I replied to their denial with the article posted here and was told that in the past exceptions were made to their 1 year policy, but that was no longer the case and would no longer be the case. If you read their help forums you’ll see case after case of replacement Fitbits failing just after the year warranty runs out. I feel that I paid $150 for a product that should have been half the price as the replacement was an inevitability. Fitbit lost my business with the poor quality and poor service.

  • PhilipGBaker

    I wrote a column about Fitbit and their products’ poor quality. They’ve had an ongoing problem with poorly designed and manufactured products. I’m on my fourth, an Alta, all replaced after being persistant, and it seems to be better than the ones I’ve had before. https://pjmedia.com/lifestyle/2016/09/20/does-fitbit-have-a-durability-problem/

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