Apple has been slammed for its handling of a massive international recall of dangerous power adapters. Reports suggest that adapters breaking and exposing consumers to risk of electric shock may be under-reported, with the company potentially aware of the dangers since at least 2006.
The recall of Apple wall adapters across its range of portable products — including iPhones, iPads, MacBooks, iPads and iPods — was announced on Friday and spanned 13 years worth of product sales.
Apple said it was only aware of 12 “incidents” worldwide relating to the recall. It remains unclear whether this meant 12 actual cases of electric shock, or merely of exposure to risk after adapters broke, leaving live parts exposed.
A number of consumers have written to Fairfax Media following the announcement to share their experiences with Apple adapters “short-circuiting”, breaking, causing electrical sparks and, in one Australian case which Apple was aware of in 2006, causing a fire.
Peter Neumeister’s broken Apple wall adapter caused an electric spark. Photo: Peter Neumeister
The cases raise questions about Apple’s knowledge of the faulty adapters much earlier on, while continuing to sell them over the 13-year time frame.
In 2006 Melbourne resident Felicity Cook experienced a small house fire after a faulty Apple G4 iBook power adapter “exploded”.
A letter and financial documents seen by Fairfax Media show Apple was aware of the incident and paid the customer compensation the same year.
A copy of the letter written by Ms Cook, dated 12 September 2006 and addressed to Apple’s customer relations department in Sydney, states that “the Apple power adaptor on our G4 iBook exploded and caught fire on the 14th of August”. The letter cites a case number.
A cheque from Apple Computer Australia Pty Ltd dated 11 October 2006 reimbursed Ms Cook for the cost of a replacement powerboard and adapter, and an electrician’s fee, totalling $218.91. Apple declined to comment on the matter.
Yet many more Apple customers have come forward detailing how easily the external part of their adapter, which connects to the wall socket, came off and exposed live parts.
A Reddit user said ‘bad glue’ caused this Apple adapter to break when it was removed from the wall socket, exposing live prongs. Photo: Reddit: hobbygogo
Brisbane resident Peter Neumeister said his seven-year-old daughter was “terrified” and in tears after she knocked a plugged-in iPad wall adapter last year, causing an electrical spark with smoke and triggering the house’s power to switch off.
“Not knowing anything about electrical equipment she tried to push the piece that fell loose back onto the charger, but somehow the charger sparked and blew the cover back off, with a flash and black smoke,” Mr Neumeister said.
“I was really surprised how easily the charger broke, it was traumatising for my daughter.” Mr Neumeister said he was “certain” the number of similar incidents occurring as a result of the faulty adapters was “much greater” than Apple was letting on.
“Looking at the internal part of the charger with the cap removed you can clearly see the positive and negative contacts so the chances of an electrical shock are real,” he said.
In 2012, Sydney resident Sandra Eckersley was given a replacement iPhone wall charger from Apple after it caused a “spontaneous explosion” which burnt the surrounding wall. She was not compensated for the damage.