Apple refuses to reimburse airline passenger over exploding headphones

“Be careful”. That is the warning an Australian woman has issued to owners of battery-powered Apple headphones after hers exploded on a flight from Beijing to Melbourne.

The woman’s face, hands and hair was burnt when the Beats by Dre headphones exploded two hours into the 12-hour flight on February 19.

She had been listening to music while snoozing when she was woken by a loud noise and felt her face burning. She grabbed the headphones and threw them on to the floor where they continued to spark until a flight attendant put them in a bucket of water. Other passengers were forced to endure the smell of melted plastic, burnt electronics and hair for the remainder of the journey.

Maurice Blackburn Lawyers approached Apple on the woman’s behalf seeking reimbursement of her out-of-pocket expenses, which included refunding her the cost of the headphones and replacing several items of clothing that was burnt.

But after sending the headphones overseas for testing, Apple’s executive relations advisor, Jing Guan, has informed the law firm they would not be reimbursing her because they did not believe their product was faulty. “Our investigation indicated the issue was caused by a third-party battery,” she said.

The woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, said: “I am extremely disappointed with their decision.

“The headphones don’t work without batteries, yet nowhere on the headphones – or their packaging – did it specify which brand of batteries should be used,” she said. “Or if a certain type of battery is required, Apple should provide them with the headphones when you buy them, but all it said was that AAA batteries were required.”

She said she purchased the headphones duty-free in 2014 and had bought the batteries in Australia.

She contacted Apple to suggest they issue a product warning so other owners were aware of the potential explosion risks, but said they told her it was not necessary because newer models of the headphones did not require batteries.

Public safety lawyer Dimi Ioannou said the incident was of high public interest and needed to be shared so that other owners of the earlier model headphones knew about the dangers.

She said anyone making a product liability claim must show that the manufacturer was in some way negligent and that this resulted in loss or damage to them. A manufacturer could be found negligent if:

  • they could reasonably foresee the risk
  • that risk was ‘not insignificant’, and
  • under the circumstances, a reasonable person in the manufacturer’s position would have taken the relevant precautions.

She said if the result was a permanent or significant physical injury or impairment, compensation could be sought from the manufacturer on the grounds of:

  • negligence by the manufacturer
  • a breach of statutory duty, which are the obligations an organisation must follow by law
  • a breach of the Australian Consumer Law (ACL), the national law for fair trading and consumer protection.

Ms Ioannou said the woman was luckily not seriously injured in the frightening in-flight incident, or any of the other passengers. She added it was “disappointing” that Apple was refusing to reimburse her, and said the woman was now considering her legal options.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau issued a warning to airline passengers following the incident.

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Posted by on May 19 2017. Filed under Australian News, Community, Featured. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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