Peloton at first refused to cooperate with a recall, even attacking the agency after the CPSC took the unusual step of warning the public about the dangers. But the company relented after facing a backlash from appalled customers and a slumping stock price. Peloton chief executive John Foley apologized for the company’s initial reaction.
The recall offered a full refund. Peloton also agreed to stop selling the $4,300 machines.
Yet other customers who wanted to keep using their treadmills could do so with a planned software change that would lock the machines with a passcode.
Peloton has struggled to implement the new software. It required customers to purchase a $39 a month online membership to use the Tread+, a service that was previously optional and provides access to online exercise classes.
That generated a new tide of backlash this week.
The fee “sounds absurd,” said a PC Magazine article that found upset users in a Peloton group on Facebook.
“Feels like deceptive and unfair business practices,” tweeted one user.
Peloton said in a statement that “current technical limitations” meant a membership is needed for the passcode to work. The company said it was waiving the membership fee for Tread+ owners for at least three months, so customers would not lose money while Peloton worked to address the software bugs.
“Peloton has no intention of making any owner of our products pay extra for safety," Peloton’s statement said.
A CPSC spokesman said the agency is looking into the matter.
The same day that the Tread+ was recalled, Peloton also announced a safety recall involving its smaller treadmill called the Tread. The touch-screen monitors on those machines could detach and fall.
The company’s dealings with safety regulators have been unusually strained — giving Peloton a huge public relations problem.
The problems began in March after a 6-year-old boy was fatally injured when he was pulled under a Tread+ treadmill at home. Peloton reported the incident to the CPSC. The company also published a letter from Foley, the chief executive, asking consumers to keep children and pets away from the machines.
But the CPSC was alarmed to learn there were dozens of accidents involving the treadmills — children, pets and adults. The agency had never seen a pattern of injuries like this with other treadmills. The CPSC wanted to conduct a recall. The agency needs a company’s cooperation to do that in most cases. Almost all recalls are voluntary, except in rare cases where the agency sues to force the issue.
Peloton was adamant that a recall was unnecessary.
The company also declined for nearly a month to give the CPSC the name of the child killed in the treadmill accident. CPSC officials said Peloton’s refusal delayed its own safety investigation. Peloton said it was only trying to protect the privacy of its customers.
Peloton eventually agreed to a recall in early May, striking a deal that allowed customers to keep using the treadmill if they installed new software and took precautions.
But customers who decided to keep their Tread+ treadmills might face a difficult decision one day. They won’t be able to sell their used treadmill. It is illegal to sell a product that has been recalled.