As Apple's MacBook Pro recall is entering its second week, new details are starting to emerge about the extent of the danger posed by its notebook batteries – and just how irritating the repair process is proving to be.
In a warning issued Thursday, the US government's independent Consumer Products Safety Commission urged Mac loyalists to be safe and just power off the machines as soon as possible. The watchdog also shared some preliminary numbers on Apple's voluntary recall, including just how many notebooks can be sent back for repairs, and how many people have reported their batteries overheating to dangerous levels.
"Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled laptop computers," the commission intoned.
"Contact Apple to determine if the laptop computer is a part of the recall and to schedule a free repair. Apple has received 26 reports of the laptop’s battery overheating, including five reports of minor burns and one report of smoke inhalation, as well as 17 reports of minor damage to nearby personal property."
Last week Apple notified its fans that MacBook Pro notebooks made between 2015 and 2017 were prone to overheating batteries, and would need to be sent back to base and fixed. This was the second recall for the high-end notebooks, the first being to address the nightmare butterfly keyboard switches.
The CPSC reports that, in just the US and Canada, some 432,000 of the recalled notebooks were sold, and the commission advised all of those owners to contact Apple to have their computers' faulty batteries replaced for free. Getting that replacement, however, may not be a practical option for many MacBook Pro owners, thanks to the long wait times they can expect from Apple.
MacBook Pro owner and self-professed Apple super-fan Matt Bridges has been a Mac user for roughly 20 years, and has had his current MacBook Pro since 2016. After learning of the recall and reading that mail-in fix would take one to two weeks, he opted to bring the machine to the Apple Store for a scheduled repair.
Thinking it would be a relatively quick Genius Bar operation (DIY repair site iFixit estimates you can perform the procedure in just a few hours), Bridges told El Reg was shocked when the store techs told him the turnaround would be two to three weeks.
As a UK-based freelance developer who relies on his macOS notebook for his living, going without the laptop for more than half a month was a non-starter.
"I said I can't be without the laptop for that long and I don't think it should take that long to repair," Bridges told us. "I foolishly thought I would take it into the Genius Bar, they would wave me out, and I'm on my way."
Things only got worse from there. Bridges says he spoke with the store manager, and offered to pay for an expedited repair. He also asked if he could be loaned a notebook, or even buy a new MacBook Pro at a slight discount. When all that failed, he had to take his case directly to Apple corporate.
After dealing with support staff to no avail, our reader said he ended up on the line with Apple executive relations staff in Ireland.
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It is here that we should point out that under the UK Consumer Rights Act of 2015, customers are entitled to seek a partial or full refund for their purchase if a repair would cause significant inconvenience or take an inordinate amount of time. Though Bridges pointed out the rules to Apple's Ireland staff, the European arm of the iBiz denied his claim, only offering a small £100 credit along with the repair for his troubles.
"All while this is happening, I was without the laptop," he noted. "I have a small business where it is just me, I can't afford two laptops."
In the end, Bridges told us, he had to cave, and ordered a new MacBook Pro from Apple so he could continue his work while the dodgy machine was repaired. He is still looking to pursue legal remedy with Apple to at least get some money back.
In addition to some legal bills and bad publicity, the battery cock-up may well have cost Apple a loyal customer.
"It has kind of become a matter of principle now," Bridges said. "I accept I have bought into the Apple ecosystem. I love the products, I love the OS, I could not imagine going back to Windows, but that is the direction this is pushing me in."
If you have had problems navigating the recall or repair process with Apple or any other vendor, please contact El Reg and let us know all about it. ®