FitBit Feeling the Pain


FitBit, the latest healthy living craze is under some serious fire. Bad timing, considering the bump the brand got from Christmas sales. On the heels of a celebrated smartwatch reveal, company stock was sent tumbling when a class action lawsuit was announced.

According to various media reports, stock shares dropped 18 percent when the news of the lawsuit broke. The suit claims FitBit’s signature heart monitoring device – called PurePulse – reports inaccurate results, a potentially disastrous miscalculation considering the nature of the product’s purpose.

How pervasive is the problem? The bad tech is present in FitBit’s Charge and Surge devices as well as the new Blaze smartwatch. While the tech FitBit uses is similar to that used by competitors at Apple and Garmin, to date, only FitBit faces rumors of wholesale failure. When your company’s basic ad message is “know your heart” news such as this presents a massive PR problem.

Worse, the lawsuit lists specific issues about the technology’s failure. According to one plaintiff, when her FitBit clocked her heart rate at 82 beats per minute, her trainer counted 160 bpm. Sure, human error could be a factor … but double? Not good.

And even worse, an article in Time magazine quoted a cardiologist who confirmed FitBit’s heart rate sensor “consistently reported” inaccurate results.

To date, FitBit has responded with a strong denial. In a quote reported by Forbes, FitBit spokesmen said, “We do not believe this case has merit … FitBit is committed to making the best clip and wrist-based activity trackers on the market.”

Nice to say, but, clearly, consumers are looking for more than a strong statement of purpose. At this point, FitBit’s best hope to make up the ground lost in the consumer market is to quickly and overwhelmingly challenge the messaging unleashed by the lawsuit. They need strong testimonials – from customers and medical experts – that not only dispute the claims in the suit but also put out specific counterclaims.

Anything less and consumers will likely not bother listening. They’ll just pick a competitive product.

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