Europe

Brussels Investigates Exploding iPhones


A series of alleged cases of "exploding" iPhones and iPods in a handful of EU member states in which overheated devices "crackle and pop like a deep-frier" before breaking apart or catching fire, have provoked the European Commission into requesting manufacturer Apple (AAPL.O) and EU member states provide information on the possible dangers of two of the company's most popular products.

"At the end of last week, we asked Apple and the member states where the incidents occurred to provide us with information on the matter," commission spokesperson Ton Van Lierop, currently charged with the industry and enterprise dossier, told EUobserver.

In the space of a month, three such cases have troubled the EU executive, responsible for overseeing the safety of consumer products across the 27-country bloc, two in France and one in the UK.

According to French financial daily Les Echos, witnesses to the most recent incident in Aix-en-Provence, France, reported that an iPhone suddenly began to "crackle and pop like a deep-frier" before breaking apart and hurling pieces of its screen everywhere. Bits of glass hit an adolescent boy in the eye, according to his parents.

The "exploding" iPhone episode comes days after a similar case in Marseilles, but in which the volatile device was one of Apple's iPod music players. In the UK a young girl at the beginning of August claimed that her overheadted iPod Touch jumped three metres in the air.

Separately, a Dutchman reported in July that he had left his iPhone in his car only to return to find that it had caught fire and damaged the vehicle.

The commission has only requested information from France and the UK, being unaware of the Dutch incident.

"No reports have yet come in via Rapex," Mr. Van Lierop said, referring to the EU rapid alert system for dangerous consumer products, while underscoring that it is still "too soon" to say what sort of action would be taken.

Rapex allows for the rapid exchange of information between EU countries and the commission of measures taken to deal with products posing a serious risk to consumers. However, any recall decisions remain with the EU member states themselves.

The EU request follows on the heels of an order from the Japanese government in January that Apple investigate scattered reports that iPod Nanos had caught fire or shot out sparks.

Apple spokespeople refused to comment on the issue despite repeated phone calls.

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