Apple has announced today that they are recalling AC wall plug adapters for its MacBook laptops and iPads in select countries. The issue stems from a design flaw that, if broken, causes the AC plug to pose a risk of electrical shock if touched. The adapters were shipped outside the U.S. from 2003 to 2015 and their total number should be rather huge. Nonetheless, the number of failures known to Apple is limited to 12 cases.

Apple has found that its AC wall plug adapters (AKA "duckheads") designed for use in Continental Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Korea, Argentina and Brazil may malfunction and create a risk of electrical shock if touched. These wall plug adapters were bundled from 2003 to 2015 with Mac PCs as well as iPads. In addition, they were also included in the Apple World Travel Adapter Kit. The company will voluntarily exchange affected wall plug adapters with a new, redesigned model, free of charge.

The affected wall plug adapters have four or five characters or no characters on the inside slot where it attaches to an Apple power adapter. The new wall plug adapters feature a 3-letter regional code in the slot (EUR, KOR, AUS, ARG or BRA). To exchange your device, you should visit a special page at Apple’s web-site.

The Verge reports that Apple is aware of 12 incidents that have occurred around broken adapters in the past 12 years. Details of the incidents are unknown; their exact circumstances are unclear too. From 2003 to 2015, Apple shipped over 120 million Macs and over 230 million iPad. The exact number of devices sold in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Korea, Argentina and Brazil is uncertain, but it is likely that many tens of millions of AC plug adapters are potentially dangerous. On the other hand, 12 incidents that occurred over 12 years is a miniscule number. Moreover, the vast majority of laptops, smartphones, tablets, phones and players that are more than five years old are no longer in use. Nonetheless, the recall will cost Apple millions of U.S. dollars.

Meanwhile the AC wall plug adapters for the U.S., the U.K., Canada, China, Hong Kong and not part of the recall, which likely indicates that they aren't affected by the underlying issue.

Finally, it should be noted that Apple's AC wall plug adapters are made by contract manufacturers, such as Volex. The same producers make similar devices to other suppliers of consumer electronics.

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  • Daniel Egger - Friday, January 29, 2016 - link

    > Certainly in the EU there are regulations to say that if an electrical item breaks it should not short out, or catch fire, or give anyone an electric shock.

    Absolutely but that does not really apply to this case.

    > Some problems are unavoidable. Some are avoidable. In the general case manufacturers have a duty to ensure that avoidable problems are avoided, even when someone's done something stupid with them.

    That's US thinking. Pretty much everywhere else in the world a manufacturer may assume common sense and is not responsible for damage caused by abuse or even just misuse of their product. Heck, it is not even necessary to put disclaimers in the product documentation for the dumbest possible unintentional use to prevent some arseholes from legally exploiting any lack of such.

    Most likely this is just a preemptive goodwill measure of Apple to prevent negative publicity and and more likely they're going to subrogate against the manufacturer of the "duckheads".
    Reply
  • masouth - Tuesday, February 09, 2016 - link

    You sound like the type of guy who is going to get me killed when I am just trying to save time and get to work. Remove those labels and then I won't know not to iron my shirt while wearing it as I stand in the shower holding my toaster so I can snarf it down as soon as it's done. You wouldn't believe how much time all of that saves. Reply
  • kent1146 - Friday, January 29, 2016 - link

    >> Wait, so they're spending millions of dollars recalling adapters... is Apple responsible if you [start a fire out of stupidity]

    It's not a matter of assigning fault or blame. It's just risk management.

    I'm certain that Apple is issuing the recall because some number-cruncher somewhere inside Apple determined that it would cost less money to issue a recall; than it would cost to deal with the alternative (defending lawsuits, negative PR, potential damages, etc).

    Because this involves risk of fire or electrical shock, it also means that someone could get seriously injured or die. And once you start getting into personal harm or death, a single lawsuit could cost millions of dollars.

    Not to mention the negative PR backlash if something were to happen, if Apple did nothing. I mean, could you imagine the reaction if the news headlines were "3 People Dead from Faulty Apple Laptop Charger. Apple Was Aware of Issue, and Did Nothing."
    Reply
  • kent1146 - Friday, January 29, 2016 - link

    On the flip side, you could also imagine saying:

    Apple fanboy: I use a Mac. Macs don't get viruses.
    Windows fanboy: I use Windows. A Windows laptop won't set my sh*t on fire and kill everyone in my house.
    Reply
  • mkozakewich - Saturday, January 30, 2016 - link

    Actually, it will. Microsoft has also recalled faulty AC cables that can cause sparking if damaged in a certain way. Reply
  • DominionSeraph - Saturday, January 30, 2016 - link

    >Unless it's a design flaw in and of itself causing these adapters to break

    Duh.
    You're kinda slow, aren't you?
    Reply
  • tbone213 - Friday, January 29, 2016 - link

    Does it include the corded adaptors??? Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Friday, January 29, 2016 - link

    No, only the duckheads themselves are affected. Reply
  • Anato - Friday, January 29, 2016 - link

    I don't know the real cause, but if those prongs break to socket and user tries to remove them while powered... And all Apple customers are not sober adults with full cognitive capabilities.

    Funny how this compares to the Steve Jobs death. Then there was "thumb stone" for a month covering full apple.com, now small blue text at the bottom...
    Reply
  • name99 - Friday, January 29, 2016 - link

    I bet Apple is now wishing they hadn't used THIS guy to design the adaptor!

    https://twitter.com/AwardsDarwin/status/6914449055...
    Reply

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