Date: Monday, August 3rd, 2009, 04:51
Recently, Apple Inc. attempted to silence a father and daughter with a gag order after the child’s iPod exploded and the family sought a refund from the company.
According to The Times, the company offered the family a full refund only on the condition that they were willing to sign a settlement form. The proposed agreement left them open to legal action if they ever disclosed the terms of the settlement.
The case mimics previous instances in which Apple attempted to hush up incidents when its devices overheated.
Ken Stanborough, 47, of Liverpool, dropped his 11-year-old daughter Ellie’s iPod Touch last month. “It made a hissing noise,” he said. “I could feel it getting hotter in my hand, and I thought I could see vapour”. Mr Stanborough said he threw the device out of his back door, where “within 30 seconds there was a pop, a big puff of smoke and it went 10 feet in the air”.
Mr. Stanborough then contacted Apple and Argos, where he had bought the device for £162. After being passed around several departments, he spoke to an Apple executive on the telephone. As a result of the conversation, Apple sent a letter to Mr Stanborough denying liability but offering a refund.
The letter also stated that, in accepting the money, Mr Stanborough was to “agree that you will keep the terms and existence of this settlement agreement completely confidential”, and that any breach of confidentiality “may result in Apple seeking injunctive relief, damages and legal costs against the defaulting persons or parties”.
“I thought it was a very disturbing letter,” said Mr Stanborough, who is self-employed and works in electronic security. He refused to sign it.
“They’re putting a life sentence on myself, my daughter and Ellie’s mum, not to say anything to anyone. If we inadvertently did say anything, no matter what, they would take litigation against us. I thought that was absolutely appalling.
“We didn’t ask for compensation, we just asked for our money back,” he added.
Last week, reports surfaced that Apple had tried to keep a number of cases where its iPod digital music players had started to smoke, burst into flames and even burned their owners, out of the public eye.
An American reporter obtained 800 pages of documentation on the cases from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) following a Freedom of Information Act request in that country. However, she was unable to get hold of the documents for months after “Apple’s lawyers filed exemption after exemption”.
In those cases, CPSC investigators suggested that the iPods’ lithium ion batteries could be the source of the problem.
In 2006, Apple and Dell recalled millions of lithium ion batteries due to overheating problems in laptop computers causing fires. As of September last year, 173,000,000 iPods have been sold worldwide.
An Apple spokesman said that, as the company had not looked at the Stanboroughs’ damaged iPod, it could not comment. Representatives from Argos also refused to comment.