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Cheap phone chargers may be sparking fires

Third party chargers also creating airline worries
Posted at 8:33 PM, Apr 05, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-08 22:18:12-04

Many of us use third party chargers to replenish our smartphones when the battery gets low.

But a Warren County, Ohio woman has a warning for everyone, after she says her charger exploded and almost caught the house on fire.

Jeanie Capiello travels frequently, and is constantly charging her phone and iPad. 

But she'll never forget what recently happened while visiting a friend and charging her iLive portable charger in an upstairs bedroom.

"We heard a bang," she said, "and the smoke alarm went off. So we ran upstairs and the bed was on fire, the floor's on fire, and the nightstand was on fire. It was really scary."

Photos on her iPad show the burn damage, she says, when the lithium battery inside the portable charger exploded.

"It popped out and this (the lithium battery roughly the size of a AA battery) shot out, hit the bed and caught the bed on fire, and it fell on the floor. And that's where we found it."

Capiello wants to share her story because she is concerned this could happen to other people, if they are charging up the portable charger while they are asleep or even when they are away.

Growing number of complaints

Inexpensive, third-party portable chargers are blamed for hundreds of fires, Including a recent one on a Chinese jet and another on a Russian airliner. Luckily, passengers were able to extinguish them.

Amazon this year recalled a quarter million Amazon Basics chargersfor this very reason.

We checked with the Consumer Product Safety Commission and found no complaints of this happening with iLive chargers before. but the company recently recalled some of its hoverboard batteriesfor fire risk.

And it's not just portable power packs with issues: Inexpensive third party power bricks and phone cords have shorted and caught fire, as Katie Sherchock told me last year.

"I just head an explosion," she said. "And I stopped a second and said 'what was that?' And I look down and see the sparks."

What you can do

So how can you protect yourself?

  • Apple suggests you buy only Apple certified chargers and cords. Certified accessories will have an "MFi" logoindicating that Apple has checked them for safety.
  • If you have a third party charger or power pack, you may not want  to use them when you are sleeping.
  • Never recharge or use a third party power pack while flying on an airplane. Some airlines now warn against using these, or even checking them below in luggage.

Both Katie Sherchock and Jeanie Capiello say they will stick with Apple approved chargers from now on.

What might have happened if no one had been home when hers overheated? Capiello says, "We were this close to going out to dinner that night, and if that had happened, I don't think the firemen could have gotten there soon enough."

A spokesman for iLive's US distributor, Good Bay, told us they have had no previous issues with this model. He says all their products are certified by either UL or CE, the European commission.

But the company will investigate, so that you stay safe and you don't waste your money.


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8:47 PM, Oct 17, 2018

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