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Apple comes under fire over "exploding" iPod response

post #1 of 106
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After a British family sought a refund for an iPod touch that allegedly exploded, Apple reportedly offered a refund only if the family agreed to keep quiet -- an action that has since drawn criticism.

In a story Monday from The Times, Apple is accused of issuing a "gagging order" on the family, offering the refund under the condition that the family sign a settlement form. But Apple has fired back, saying that such requests are standard practice in settlement agreements.

Analyzing the story, The Unofficial Apple Weblog notes that a "gagging order" can only come from a court, and no court is yet involved in the incident. In addition, they add that confidentiality agreements are par for the course in such situations.

"Sure, a letter filled with legalese is a little heavy-handed," the report reads, "but hey, the iPod was out of warranty and when a company agrees to give you money it doesn't feel it owes you, especially in a situation such as this one, it can very well request confidentiality you keep your trap shut about it going forward."

The trouble began when Liverpool's Ken Stanborough dropped his 11-year-old daughter's iPod touch. The device hissed, then popped and allegedly shot 10 feet into the air. After Stanborough called Apple to complain, he received a letter denying any liability on the company's part, but offering him a refund if he would agree that you will keep the terms and existence of this settlement agreement completely confidential." If Staborough were to breach the agreement, he could be subjected to litigation.

Theyre putting a life sentence on myself, my daughter and Ellies mum, not to say anything to anyone," Stanborough told The Times. "If we inadvertently did say anything, no matter what, they would take litigation against us. I thought that was absolutely appalling."

The latest report echoes earlier, separate dangerous iPod incidents. Just last month, Apple was accused of stalling an investigation over another reported iPod fire. In that case, the battery on an iPod shuffle allegedly caught fire on the victim's arm when she was out for a run.

When a TV reporter attempted to investigate the incident, she claimed her search for data was repeatedly impeded, as Apple asked for Consumer Product Safety Commission reports to be exempted from the Freedom of Information Act, hiding them from public view.

When the reporter finally received the requested information, she was surprised at just how long Apple and the CPSC had been aware of problems: Fires had been reported as long ago as 2005 and have been noted periodically ever since. The 800-page report had even already pinpointed the lithium-ion battery packs as the likely causes because of their occasional tendency to overheat, but despite the evidence, hadn't led to a mandatory recall. Commission officials had determined that the the scarcity of incidents -- just a handful compared to the 175 million iPods sold at the time -- had made the risk of any injury, let alone any serious injuries, "very low." It also believed that newer batteries weren't shown vulnerable to the same sort of overheating.
post #2 of 106
not the best response by Apple, but there are more deaths from some baby cribs and no one cares

what did the family expect? the money and the ability to brag how it proves that ipods are deadly?
post #3 of 106
I've always been one to give Apple a benefit of the doubt, but these past few months Apple has pulled enough crap to make me reevaluate my position.

Well anyway, I guess it's good to know that the bad behavior Apple has been exhibiting in the corporate offices has trickled over to the International units of Apple.

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post #4 of 106
"The trouble began when Liverpool's Ken Stanborough dropped his 11-year-old daughter's iPod touch. The device hissed, then popped and allegedly shot 10 feet into the air."

Seriously?!? 10ft?!? Yeah--right. With all the free touches out there--(and who hasn't dropped theirs at least once) if they could launch 10ft in the air, we would have seen this on youtube long ago.
post #5 of 106
... about throwing it out the back door of the house. THEN it hissed, popped and left ten feet (isn't it ALWAYS ten feet - never 9, 11...)
post #6 of 106
Apple's behaviour has been a little strange recently.

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post #7 of 106
Heavy handed tactics like this just make me think that Apple has something to hide!

Just give the kid a refund or replacment and it would be a non-story. Faulty units happen.
post #8 of 106
Unless I missed something the account of the story never said that there was any other force involved other than dropping it. It doesn't sound like there was a fireball or the battery leaked chemicals everywhere. It sounds like someone dropped their iPod and it "exploded" meaning it broke into a bunch of little pieces and like most people they probably had one of those "oh shit" moments where they instantly try to figure out what happened and how it wasn't their fault. Human nature.
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post #9 of 106
The original article was very vague. You couldnt tell if it ment that he dropped it first and then it started hissing or if the article meant the fact that he threw it out thew door was the drop.

So dont right away protect apple either. I am wondering if apple didnt do enough testing on the ipod touch and iphone designs before releasing them.

You might say oh but he dropped it but a product like an mp3 player should not explode after being dropped. A product like an mp3 player that will be used for excersise should be expected to be dropped (just look at all the testing nitnendo does on its products).
post #10 of 106
10 ft my.... that how far it bounce when he through it because it daughter was drowned out him yelling at her.

Yes, this happens all the time, a company agrees to do something for you which is out side the norm and they expect you to keep your mouth shut since they do not plan to do this for others.

i am sorry there is no expectation that a product not do something that was not intended when you miss handle a product which this guy obviously admitted too.

However, in the UK they look at this stuff different, Manufactures are expect to protect people from being stupid, or using a product which it was never intended to used as, like using the door of stove of washing machine as step stool. There are well documented cases in the UK where people tried using the open door on the stove or washing machine only to get hurt. So now those product sold in the UK must protect against this unintended use.
post #11 of 106
Quote:
Originally Posted by Zoolook View Post

Apple's bahviour has been a little strange recently.

The iPod is the devil's toy, I tell you!
post #12 of 106
From what I read, it really sounds like Apple was trying to say that they didn't want the settlement itself to be discussed, as opposed to the fact that something like this took place.

Maybe I misunderstood. I've been wrong before. Probably will be again.

It is unfortunate that this happened--no doubt--but it sounds like the device was damaged internally, causing a sudden release of energy from the battery. I think it would be difficult to prevent that from happening.

Whatever the case, I hope this works out well for them and that Apple does the right thing.
post #13 of 106
Quote:
Originally Posted by al_bundy View Post

not the best response by Apple, but there are more deaths from some baby cribs and no one cares

what did the family expect? the money and the ability to brag how it proves that ipods are deadly?

confidentially about settlements, exemptions from FOI requests during investigations, etc, this is all standard practice, it is NOT something unique to Apple. and yet some folks, particularly the media want to play like Apple goes by its own rules.

also, that 800 page report showed that some meager 15 out of 175 million ipods have had issues over the years. that's hardly the major concern the reporter wants to show it as. and nothing about how many of those were dropped, left in hot cars etc, which might have been a factor.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Shaun, UK View Post

Heavy handed tactics like this just make me think that Apple has something to hide!

Just give the kid a refund or replacment and it would be a non-story. Faulty units happen.

they gave a refund/replacement. on an possibly out of warranty unit that was dropped by the customer (and thus could have been user damaged). They made an exception and it's not really that shocking that they would want the customer not to go spreading it around because they don't want "well i talked to Johnny the other day and you did it for him so you are going to do it for me, no what that it's 5 years old and I dropped it in a sink of water" or worse "well I read in the papers".

what is a riot is that the guy is worried about Apple coming after them for saying anything but guess what -- something was said. cause we all know about it. so I guess he's worried now.

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(She's family so I'm a little biased)

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A non tech's thoughts on Apple stuff 

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post #14 of 106
Quote:
Originally Posted by majortom1981 View Post

So dont right away protect apple either. I am wondering if apple didnt do enough testing on the ipod touch and iphone designs before releasing them.

With 45 million units out there, I think it's incredible that we haven't heard about more of these things happening. The rate of these freak things happening appears to be far less than one thousandth of one percent. What more do you want?
post #15 of 106
Assuming there have been 1000 cases and 175 million iPods sold...
That is a 0.000006% chance your iPod will catch fire.

I'm also curious how many complaints the CPSC gets for all devices with Lithium-Ion batteries.
post #16 of 106
If you're going to demand my silence, you'd better offer me something more than just a refund

Quote:
Originally Posted by DaveGee View Post

I've always been one to give Apple a benefit of the doubt, but these past few months Apple has pulled enough crap to make me reevaluate my position.

It's not a recent change. Apple has been "just recently" changing to evil for the last 20 years. Every incident makes people wonder what has "changed" and then is forgotten. They're a corporation, for profit, with a team of lawyers, and they do some inexcusable things. They always have. I fear they, like other corporations, always will.

But at least they can be called on it when it happens And at least they do a lot of pro-consumer things that Microsoft and others wouldn't. Not because those are "more evil" but because Apple's business is user-centric, not enterprise-centric or PC-maker-centric. Apple's money COMES from being pro-consumer and pro-user, to a large extent.

(I'm not saying the designers and leaders at Apple see nothing but dollar signs--they are artists and visionaries in their own way. But the actions of the corporation are just that--actions of a corporation--an inhuman profit machine. That's simply reality.)

EDIT: To be clear, the action I find wrong is how Apple handled this family. The exploding iPods themselves aren't necessarily such a problem (unless it's you sitting on one!) because when you ship millions, some will always go bad. No matter which company.

Quote:
Originally Posted by xxii View Post

"The trouble began when Liverpool's Ken Stanborough dropped his 11-year-old daughter's iPod touch. The device hissed, then popped and allegedly shot 10 feet into the air."

Seriously?!? 10ft?!? Yeah--right. With all the free touches out there--(and who hasn't dropped theirs at least once) if they could launch 10ft in the air, we would have seen this on youtube long ago.

I think I DID see it on YouTube. They put Mentos and Diet Coke in the iPod. It launched half a mile and landed in a Boston cream pie.
post #17 of 106
Quote:
Originally Posted by charlituna View Post

confidentially about settlements, exemptions from FOI requests during investigations, etc, this is all standard practice, it is NOT something unique to Apple. and yet some folks, particularly the media want to play like Apple goes by its own rules.

also, that 800 page report showed that some meager 15 out of 175 million ipods have had issues over the years. that's hardly the major concern the reporter wants to show it as. and nothing about how many of those were dropped, left in hot cars etc, which might have been a factor.

This has nothing to do with a "settlement," there was no lawsuit here. They asked for a refund. An NDA for a refund. Absurd.
post #18 of 106
I hate summers
post #19 of 106
Quote:
Originally Posted by StLBluesFan View Post

This has nothing to do with a "settlement," there was no lawsuit here. They asked for a refund. An NDA for a refund. Absurd.

A refund for something out of warranty can be technically considered a settlement. Apple were probably covering themselves, because by refunding a device so far out of warranty, they are implicitly accepting responsibility for what happened, and in the wonderful world of "sue everyone you ever meet", it's only a small step to liability.

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post #20 of 106
http://www.ananova.com/business/stor...196.html?menu=

There's always three sides to every story; the customer's side, the company's side, and the truth. The guy is apparently refusing to send the iPod in for examination by Apple engineers. He wants an Apple representative to personally pick up the device. I wonder what that's all about? Apple denies it is trying to suppress any discussion about the incident. It claims the settlement letter is standard legal procedure in cases like this. You know what? In the current worldwide legal climate these days I believe them. These days, in the mind of the public, a corporation is guilty, period, with no defense possible. Just look at some of the rush-to-judgement responses in this thread for proof of that. Apple offered a refund; they want an agreement stating that that's the end of it with no more legal action. In the internet age things tend to get blown way out of proportion for no good reason. Just look at some of the claims made on troubleshooting web sites about how widespread certain issues are.
post #21 of 106
Quote:
Originally Posted by al_bundy View Post

not the best response by Apple, but there are more deaths from some baby cribs and no one cares

what did the family expect? the money and the ability to brag how it proves that ipods are deadly?

I don't think they took the money. Would you?
post #22 of 106
The article says that this person spoke to an Apple executive. I can see this happening if it was Apple legal, they have a history of not considering PR, but an executive should have known better. Plus, this person was passed on to the executive, which in it of itself may suggest an internal protocol to deal with a know, albeit limited, issue. I'm sure there are several circumstances the general public are unaware of.

Apple should have provided a refund and an apology. I agree with other comments here and in other forums; Apple has been behaving a little strange lately.

A couple of things in Apple's favor: They did not offer the person 'hush' money, as in something well beyond a refund. Apple has sold millions of iPod, and, while disturbing nonetheless, when considering all the iPods that have ever caught on fire, to include some probably not reported, this sort of thing happening is almost zero. And, we don't really know what happened prior to the Touch exploding - we only have the person word. He does indicate that he dropped the device.

And honestly, I would be hesitant about signing a legally binding contract such as this with a large company. Better I'm out a couple of bucks than find myself of victim of events outside of my control.
post #23 of 106
Such a melodrama, over nothing. Apple's handling of this situation is completely industry standard, and as the AI article correctly points out (and the Time article did not), Apple cannot issue a "gag order." Only a court can do that. The rhetoric is more overheated than the iPod in question.
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post #24 of 106
Quote:
Originally Posted by Olternaut View Post

I don't think they took the money.

Good observation. The article didn't say they did.

I can understand their concern: What if I took the money, but mentioned it at a dinner party with friends or family - or my kids did so, say at school? Would I not be violating the terms of the agreement and be liable?

Some of these corporate legal boilerplates are so stupid, sometimes. As someone else said, Apple should have sent a check with some flowers and moved on.
post #25 of 106
Note that here in the UK Apple's one-year warranty in not worth the paper it is written on. Thanks to European Union legislation good have up to six years warranty.

Therefore the family in question were quite within their rights to ask for a refund without conditions as Apple have tried to impose.
post #26 of 106
Quote:
Originally Posted by Phillip View Post

Note that here in the UK Apple's one-year warranty in not worth the paper it is written on. Thanks to European Union legislation good have up to six years warranty.

Therefore the family in question were quite within their rights to ask for a refund without conditions as Apple have tried to impose.

Wrong on several counts. It isn't European Union legislation, it's the Sale of Goods Act 1979, which is UK legislation. You're probably confused by the fact that recent EU legislation has laid down that if a product fails within 6 months of purchase, there is no onus on the user to prove that device failure was due to a design or manufacturing flaw. I haven't read the legislation, but presumably there is some protection for retailers from consumers trying to get refunds for products that they've abused.

Anyway, the 1979 Act gives consumers the right to demand a refund, repair or replacement (whichever is most "reasonable") for defective products, up to six years from the original purchase date. The Act makes frequent reference to reasonableness. Depending upon the circumstances under which a product is dropped, it may not be reasonable to expect that product to still work, and you'd have a hell of a time proving that the product had failed due to a design or manufacturing fault rather than because you had dropped it.
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post #27 of 106
Quote:
Apple comes under fire over "exploding" iPod response

Pun-tastic!
post #28 of 106
Quote:
Originally Posted by anantksundaram View Post

I can understand their concern: What if I took the money, but mentioned it at a dinner party with friends or family - or my kids did so, say at school? Would I not be violating the terms of the agreement and be liable?

Yes, because as we know, Apple has spies everywhere.

I could tell you more, but I'd have to shoot you.
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post #29 of 106
I wonder how many morons are reading this thinking "WELL THAT DOES IT! I'M NEVER BUYING AN IPOD!"

Out of 175 million only a handful have had issues like this. I think it's safe to buy one.

On one hand I think Apple shouldn't have tried to sweep this under the rug, but on the other hand, who can blame them? Should they warn of a possible explosion with every sale? That doesn't seem wise.

Apple probably should have issued the refund, and if he discussed it with the news or something, they should acknowledge that yes, it did happen, but then assure people the odds of it happening to their ipod are the same as winning the lottery or something. That would have made more sense. The "gagging order" makes it look like they've got something BIGGER to hide.
post #30 of 106
Quote:

Thanks for the link.

When I first read about this, I thought the article said that the KID was blown 10 feet into the air!
post #31 of 106
I call bullshit. The Times seems to me to be similar to The Enquirer, with fewer stories about Aliens meeting with the President and Elvis on Air Force 1...

Pics of the iPod? pics of the alleged "gagging order"? Any actual proof?
post #32 of 106
This department is the Apple Executive Relations. They use such tactics to shut you up. Any refund or so called goodwill gesture is accompanied with a legal agreement that you don't discuss the matter with anyone, or else. Their lawyers even use bogus legal info to fan you off. Yes, it's has been happening since 2005. They never admit they are wrong or there's problem with their products, EVER!

To be fair, most American companies do practice this tactic to some extend. But Apple is the worst of the lot.
post #33 of 106
I had to sign one of these exact agreements over 9 years ago. I believe I still have the papers filed away somewhere. Apple has been doing this for years. I was just glad to get a full refund, even though it required weeks of haggling with Apple. What finally worked was when I faxed Apple the letters I got back from the FTC Consumer Protection board (or whatever it was called), who took an interest in the problem.
post #34 of 106
Anything with a battery have the potential of catching fire and exploding. Laptops, cellphones, and other electronics could catch fire if the chemicals in the battery are leaked, which can be a result of a drop or a faulty battery.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WeWq6rWzChw

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mlZggVrF9VI
post #35 of 106
Quote:
Originally Posted by Phillip View Post

Note that here in the UK Apple's one-year warranty in not worth the paper it is written on. Thanks to European Union legislation good have up to six years warranty.

Therefore the family in question were quite within their rights to ask for a refund without conditions as Apple have tried to impose.

So you are saying that if I bought setting of China and dropped it 5 years later, that I was entitled to a refund without conditions.

Hell, I would take that offer with conditions any time.
post #36 of 106
Quote:
Originally Posted by Zoolook View Post

Apple's bahviour has been a little strange recently.

So is this spelling.
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post #37 of 106
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. H View Post

Wrong on several counts. It isn't European Union legislation, it's the Sale of Goods Act 1979, which is UK legislation. You're probably confused by the fact that recent EU legislation has laid down that if a product fails within 6 months of purchase, there is no onus on the user to prove that device failure was due to a design or manufacturing flaw. I haven't read the legislation, but presumably there is some protection for retailers from consumers trying to get refunds for products that they've abused.

Anyway, the 1979 Act gives consumers the right to demand a refund, repair or replacement (whichever is most "reasonable") for defective products, up to six years from the original purchase date. The Act makes frequent reference to reasonableness. Depending upon the circumstances under which a product is dropped, it may not be reasonable to expect that product to still work, and you'd have a hell of a time proving that the product had failed due to a design or manufacturing fault rather than because you had dropped it.

This is probably why products cost so much more in England and the continent than they do here.

Nothing is for free. Somehow, that, what amounts to an extended warrantee, has to be paid for by the consumer.

So everyone is paying more for their product so that a few will get it fixed or replaced for free years later.

That's another hidden tax you have to pay.
post #38 of 106
Quote:

So his kid drops the iPod down the stairs (how many steps down?). It starts to 'hiss' so the father picks it up and throws it out the back door.

How far did he throw it?
What did it land on? Grass? Is there grass in the UK? The driveway? Cement?
And 30 seconds later it explodes and goes another 10 feet in the air.

So we are told that the iPod was out of warranty. But he claims for a refund, asked to sign an NDA but refuses and won't let anybody examine the weapon of mass destruction (note that he wasn't out to cause trouble, "We just don't want this happening to anyone else."

I wonder if his kid was listening to titit by HISS (http://www.myspace.com/djhiss) when she dropped it.
Or maybe she had a hissy-fit when she dropped her iPod
Or maybe the father just has a short fuse and got ballistic because it took too long to explode.
post #39 of 106
Quote:
Originally Posted by justflybob View Post

So is this spelling.

What spelling? "Behaviour"? It's British. Us Americans are the strange ones...
post #40 of 106
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr Millmoss View Post

Such a melodrama, over nothing. Apple's handling of this situation is completely industry standard, and as the AI article correctly points out (and the Time article did not), Apple cannot issue a "gag order." Only a court can do that. The rhetoric is more overheated than the iPod in question.

I'm glad a few people have kept their heads over this story. I've seen it reported on three sites over the last couple of days and very few people even in the comments have got it right.

The fact that these incidents are so rare proves that the iPod is actually very well put together and safer than almost any consumer product out there. There are thousands of everyday products with failure rates orders of magnitude greater that even kill people from time to time but no one ever complains about that.

Also, as you say, the "gag order" is an industry standard and something the authors of the original article had to know. That means that the only reason the story has even spread is the deliberately slanted view they put on the story, presumably to sell papers (or views), and everyone who thinks worse of Apple after reading this tripe is just a fool.
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