back to article Power Bar: EE was warned of safety risk BEFORE user was burned in explosion

EE management was warned that its popular "Power Bar" phone charging devices had serious safety risks before they were given to customers, the Register has learned. A Power Bar subsequently exploded, injuring a young woman badly enough that she required hospital treatment, and some Power Bars have since been recalled. Last …

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  2. AMBxx Silver badge
    Unhappy

    How many others?

    Loads of cheapo batteries like these for sale on ebay, amazon etc.

    1. Russ Tarbox

      Re: How many others?

      I bought one of these. I noticed on the 3rd or 4th charge it was getting VERY hot during charging. I threw it out. I figured I didn't want to risk burning my home down, especially given that the charging would normally be expected to be done overnight.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: How many others?

        You shouldn't have thrown out out. I believe these are only loaned from EE. At some point in the future you may be charged for it.

      2. Mr Dogshit

        Re: How many others?

        I threw it out.

        I hope you mean you took it to a Materials Recycling Facility, not just chucked it in the bin.

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    1. rhydian

      It's "something for nothing", or, in this case "potential fire hazard for next to nothing"...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You realise how many handsets now "feature" non-removable batteries?

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Very true - but how do you tell the difference? What can distinguish a decent quality USB power supply from a crap quality USB power supply?

          You would expect a branded item from a high street store to be of at least safe quality - no?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            I forgot to mention - in this case, EE themselves value the power bar at £30 in the 'hire agreement' they make you agree to. That's how much you're liable for if you break or lose it and theoretically they want them all back after the 18 months is up or if you stop being an EE customer.

            Surely a £30 2400mAh battery pack is built from the best quality materials?

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    4. MikeGH

      But it gives EE a great opportunity to get you in-store and sell on a regular basis...

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      In my case - my phone used to live in an Otterbox case, they seem to dislike repeated removal of the front plastic panel for access, I now have a Griffin Defender case, same thing, built to hold the phone securely and safely, not designed to faff around with to change batteries. It depends to some extent on where you are

      Not everyone works wholly in a nice office environment and the downside of the smartphone is its relative fragility compared to the old mars bar models, My old 6230i was almost indestructible, except for when exposed to a .5 litre mug full of hot sweet tea, but in terms of impact resistance it was great, and didn't need recharging so often - heavy smartphone use "in the field" can mean these things are too handy not to have.

    6. Allan 1

      How do I swap out a spare battery in my Galaxy S6 Edge? It's a completely sealed unit.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Er, have you ever heard of "risk assessment"?

    Slightly sensationalist story and headline (as usual). Considering what *might* go wrong with a product is part and parcel of any product launch. That's only the first step. It certainly doesn't mean ""EE was warned!! OMG!!!".

    What matters is the residual risk that was left *after* mitigating actions (if any) were taken. If you've got evidence that the product was launched without dealing with the risks, then you might have a story. Simply listing the potential risks (as you've done in this article) doesn't mean a damn thing.

    That's like slamming a car manufacturer for a car crash because "OMFG, they *knew* from the outset that cars can crash!!!"

    Duh.

    1. wolfetone Silver badge

      Re: Er, have you ever heard of "risk assessment"?

      I think the fact EE have no way of knowing whether the power bars they hand out remain within a reasonably safe lifespan is a fairly glaring admission that they didn't do a damn thing about it.

      1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Re: Er, have you ever heard of "risk assessment"?

        How would they not know the age of the power bars though? Presumably, these things have a serial number on them. It would be trivial to keep a database of serial number vs issue date and withdraw them when they reach a given age. You could easily keep other data such as number of times returned, charge level and time to charge, etc.

        I'm not an EE customer, so I don't know if this is the case, but presumably, they have some sort of way of checking these things in and out, so they know who has one?

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
          Holmes

          Re: Er, have you ever heard of "risk assessment"?

          You could easily keep other data such as number of times returned, charge level and time to charge, etc.

          You also need to monitor G-forces, maximum heat reached so far, whether someone used a hammer on the battery... actually a S.M.A.R.T. battery interface. Best add X-ray imaging checks at the store. As there are still doubts how these sticks of dynamitebatteries evolve over time, it's an interesting little problem.

        3. Timbo

          Re: Er, have you ever heard of "risk assessment"?

          "Presumably, these things have a serial number on them"

          Nope, they don't (at least not on the outside). There might be a number on a label inside, but the devices appear to be sealed and they can't be checked (unless you want to damage the item and have to pay for it at the end of the 18 month loan period).

          I would imagine there isn't a way to tell via USB what the serial number might be....as that would surely add $$'s to the prime cost - though it would help EE to ascertain which Power bars were still serviceable.

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Er, have you ever heard of "risk assessment"?

      One hair-raising quote from the report is a concern about the variable quality of the power cells. Eeek!

      Were they fishing them off the floor of random factories round China, and just shoving them into the power bars or something?

      It is hard to assess with the limited information available. We have to rely that El Reg aren't quoting the report horribly out of context, or haven't been had by some internal leaker who's only giving them half the information.

      In general, my experience of El Reg is that they do tend to quote in context. They strike me as reasonably honest, even if they do have a weakness for an exciting headline - and they will twist people's words in order to get a good pun...

      On the other side though, we have to rely on the management of EE not to be arses.

  5. eJ2095

    Common sense

    They get warm when discharging also..

    Thought think they are rated at 2600,

    Most phones have at least a higher rated battery that drains this hence it gets very warm..

    1. Peter2 Silver badge

      Re: Common sense

      Any lithium cell gets warm when charging or discharging. Said cell also releases hydrogen when charing or discharging, and this is where the fire risk comes from as the rate of hydrogen emission goes up with heat until it reaches such a point that you get a self sustaining reaction of hydrogen being released, which is the thermal runaway referenced in the risk assesment. Since hydrogen ignites when it reaches sufficant pressure, this is where venting with fire and a hydrogen explosion comes from. Hydrogen fires can be slightly hot and tend to cause things around them to burn as well.

      This is made worse by manufacturers apparently completely ignoring the safety requirements on the MSDS of lithium based batteries (the need for vents and not installing it in an enclosed container is a listed requirement iirc, which appears to be violated on virtually every mobile)

      In case the fire wasn't enough, a lithium "terrorist" cell will also release hydrofloric acid when the seals break. Don't breathe this in or get any on you. For general reference, safety requirements for cleaning the stuff up include full body protection in a hazmat suit with an independent air supply, not merely filtering with a gas mask. It's not nice stuff, apparently.

      Risks are mitigated though not pushing or pulling too much out of the cells, having good quality cells and also having protection cutouts that brick the battery if things are getting dangerous. It would seem that all three points have been overlooked in this case...

      1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Re: Common sense

        Anyone who has ever experienced a hydrogen fire can also tell you that they are extra fun, since, when small at least, they're pretty much invisible - there's no smoke, and the flame is colourless in the visible spectrum. The first indication you'd normally get is when they set something else on fire, or set a heat-detector fire alarm off.

      2. Gideon 1

        Re: Hydrogen

        Lithium cells are at risk of thermal runaway due to deposition of lithium metal within the cell, which can be caused by overheating, overcharge, over-discharge, charging below 0 Celsius, or mechanical damage. The venting gas is a mixture of Hydrogen and CO2, and smaller amounts of CO, CH4, C2H4, and C2H6 due to high temperature reactions of the cell chemicals. Hydrogen ignites when it reaches sufficient temperature in the presence of oxygen, but that temperature is caused by the thermal runaway within the cell.

        http://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlehtml/2013/ra/c3ra45748f

        To meet EC regulations, the cells must have electronic protection against charging below 0 Celsius or too high a temperature, overcharging, and over-discharging. Cells in series must have cell balancing circuitry. Has anyone done a tear-down and verified that the EE power bars have this protection circuitry?

        1. JeffyPoooh
          Pint

          Re: Hydrogen

          "Cells in series must have cell balancing circuitry."

          Obviously it's using a single 18650 type cell. So obviously 'series' is not applicable.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Hydrogen

          "To meet EC regulations"

          Can you provide a specific reference to these regulations? Happy to take it on trust, always happier if there's a direct source.

          Mage mentioned the CE regs but I'd be very surprised if there was anything specific in there re battery safety. There might be something relating to the safe disposal of batteries but that's not quite the same.

          Thanks.

        3. JulieM Silver badge

          Re: Hydrogen

          <blockquote>Lithium cells are at risk of thermal runaway due to deposition of lithium metal within the cell, which can be caused by overheating, overcharge, over-discharge, charging below 0 Celsius, or mechanical damage.</blockquote>I think you missed "Looking at them a bit funny" .....

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Common sense - or perhaps not

        I know a little about batteries without being an expert and this post is nonsense. Lithium cells do not normally outgass on charging or discharging. They can when mistreated and outgassing should be considered in risk management but it is not a given and depends on the specific Lithium battery chemistry used. The presence of fluorine depends on the electrolyte used so Hydrofluoric acid may or may not be posisble but this will only occur if the battery catches fire. There are usually multiple means to prevent this occuring and the fire itself is a significant hazard so it is not clear that this makes a real difference. The safety devices in the battery do not necessarily brick the battery when for example it is short circuited but do disconnect it until the short circuit is removed.

        All this story shows is that EE did the right thing in reviewing possible hazards and control methds., Only if they took no action, or inadequate actions to control a risk should they be blamed. The fact they have performed a recall after a small (one?) incident with a very high number of units suggets that they should be commended.

      4. The Alpha Klutz
        Megaphone

        Re: Common sense

        "For general reference, safety requirements for cleaning the stuff up include full body protection in a hazmat suit "

        If you look up the MSDS for Vitamin B it says pretty much the same thing. Go figure.

      5. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Common sense

        "Said cell also releases hydrogen when charing or discharging"

        The fun part about current lithium batteries is that when overcharged they precipitate out metallic lithium as well as venting.

        Water and lithium don't mix and guess what people will attempt put a fire out with.

        WRT HFl: nasty stuff. Peter2 is understating how dangerous it is. Seriously. If you get a drop on your hand you'll probably lose your arm.

        1. Peter2 Silver badge

          Re: Common sense

          >"WRT HFl: nasty stuff. Peter2 is understating how dangerous it is. Seriously. If you get a drop on your hand you'll probably lose your arm."

          I'm not a chemist and my knowledge comes from reading the material safety data sheet, but I think that's 100% pure hydroflouric acid. When lithium cells vent though, I suspect that it's at lower concentrations so it shouldn't be immediately fatal although the fact that it's vapourised and comes out in smoke means that people are likely to breathe it in, so direct exposure to the lungs which is kind of suboptimal. Like anybody with the slightest knowledge of the stuff i'm still avoiding it though.

          "Water and lithium don't mix and guess what people will attempt put a fire out with."

          CO2 extinguishers, followed by powder. Even most users wouldn't use water given the warning signs on/next to the extinguishers.

      6. Mike Pellatt

        Re: Common sense

        Since hydrogen ignites when it reaches sufficant (sic) pressure....

        You better tell that to the manufacturers of hydrogen-powered vehicles, then. They store hydrogen at up to 700 bar (according to http://www.hse.gov.uk/research/rrpdf/rr615.pdf).

        I have a feeling that these little boxes would fracture before reaching even that pressure, meaning that this process is a bit unlikely in igniting them.

    2. Timbo

      Re: Common sense

      "They get warm when discharging also..Thought think they are rated at 2600,

      Most phones have at least a higher rated battery that drains this hence it gets very warm.."

      I still use a Samsung S2, which uses a 1650mAh battery (of which i have 2 so I can swap batteries during the day).

      I got a Power Bar a couple of months ago, Model E1-01 rated at 2600mAh and it saves me time swapping batteries....and I can confirm that it does get warm while re-charging the phone. :(

  6. andy 103

    A battery charging a battery

    It's effectively a battery which charges a battery.

    Here's an idea: get a spare battery. It's smaller and easier to carry around.

    The main use case for these chargers seems to be for people who can't survive without updating their Instagram every 5 mins or tweeting about which coffee shop they're in. Not saying they deserve to get burnt though.

    1. ilmari

      Re: A battery charging a battery

      My main use of these kinds of things is making phone stream spotify/etc for a full workday. Excellent 3G coverage, shitty FM radio coverage.

    2. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

      Re: A battery charging a battery

      Andy, do you actually have a smartphone? Most of them don't have removable batteries.

      Mine does, of course, because I deliberately sought out what that does..

    3. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Re: A battery charging a battery

      The main use case for these chargers seems to be for people who can't survive without updating their Instagram every 5 mins or tweeting about which coffee shop they're in.

      My partner has a portable charger battery (not an EE one). She has it because her phone has no removable battery, and a crappy battery life (less than a day if she uses Wi-Fi or GPS). It has bugger-all to do with the pointless social-media bleating that some people do, but is because sometimes she wants to use the features of her phone, such as using the GPS to measure exercise, using Google to look something up, or $deity forbid, make a phone call.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A battery charging a battery

      Funny my use case is keeping my phone working while away from power for more than a day... say, camping... or whilst walking up a mountain - or a combination of the two.

      I know your going to come back and say something along the lines of "Cant you live without your phone for a few days" and the answer would be "yes" but realistically why would I?

      The phone provides me with a camera, with decent video capability, GPS, entertainment when its starts pissing down and the tent comes out and in the event that something goes wrong it *MIGHT* useful to communicate with someone that can help *

      * I say might because obviously in the middle of nowhere its not going to work - but for alot of places they do work.

      That said, the charger described in the article doesnt really fit this case either because youre lucky to get one full charge out of it!

    5. Suricou Raven

      Re: A battery charging a battery

      That used to work. Then manufacturers started struggling to meet consumer demands for ever-thinner phones. When you need to make them no more than a few mm thick or they won't sell, anything that adds thickness must be cut. That includes removable batteries - which require the thickness of plastic each side of the cell and an extra removable back cover on the phone. Consumers may like replacable batteries, but not enough to accept an extra 2mm thickness.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why not just buy an offical spare battery for your handset, or a decent quality USB power supply?

    Why do you think that "official" parts are better quality? There have been plenty of original laptop batteries recalled by OEMs, and I recently had to replace an original Samsung phone battery after it started getting warm and growing in size after less than a year's use.

    Seems to me that Li-ion batteries are an inherently risky technology. A very low inherent risk in the main, but if makers can make them fail-safe, they choose not to (or OEMs won't pay the premium required).

    Seems to me that EE are simply taking their rightful place in the alphabetic and years long list of lithium battery pain, between Apple, Boeing, Compaq, Dell, Fujitsu, Gateway, HP, IBM, Lenovo.......

    1. ilmari

      Inherently unstable is actually true in a literal sense, the battery is eating itself up chemically after being manufactured, and will explode under use eventually.

      Through limiting the temperature, current and voltage to specific limits, the point of explosion can be pushed to far beyond the battery's useful life.

      Contaminations during manufacture typically shrink the safe temperature, voltage and current windows, making the safe windiw smaller than what the electronics is tuned for. The battery eventually reaches the point of explosion before it gets discarded as useless.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Timbo

        "At least with the S4, if the battery span freely when placed flat on a table and spun, (that was the official test apparently), they would replace it under warranty."

        That is a useful piece of advice - I've just checked my S2 batteries and one shows a slight bulge in the centre...so maybe it needs to be scrapped before it "blows". Thanks for the tip. :-)

  8. Mage
    Flame

    A symptom of CE

    The problem is the CE mark is now useless. It needs scrapped and a new mark:

    1) The ! isn't good enough to indicate non-universal EU. If it isn't universal EU, no mark.

    2) Must be 3rd party tested for safety, EMI, RFI, compliance with advertising claims and other regulator features, in REALISTIC and WORSE case scenarios. Actually connected and in use, not just plugged in etc.

    3) Must have random sample inspection from Retail. Otherwise makers will cheat and ship cheaper different thing to what is shipped.

    4) Non-compliance Fines that seriously hurt. Levelled against Maker and importer.

    5) Compensation to Retail and Consumers

    6) Serial number (barcode or RFID) read a time of sale. No need to have receipt or be original purchaser to claim rights for failure under SOGA, as many items are now never returned. EU database so you can return to ANY shop and Wholesale + Maker has to pay costs. It's unfairly on Retailer at present. Retailers can't test.

    7) Fine and loss of Mark if the failure rate inside SOGA period is too high

    1. JeffyPoooh
      Pint

      Re: A symptom of CE

      Which 'CE' mark?

      There are two. The one you're thinking of, and the very similar 'China Export' mark.

      The only difference is the character spacing.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A symptom of CE

      "EU database so you can return to ANY shop and Wholesale + Maker has to pay costs"

      I don't think that I understand what you mean by that.. If your saying what I think your saying then you don't know how retail businesses work.

      Retailer X isn't going to give me some of THEIR stock if I take them something that I bought from retailer Y because that means that they wont be able to sell it. Even if they will eventually get their money back from the manufacturer they will only get the cost back - not the profit that they potentially lost from not having he item on sale,

      Then you have the issue that not all retailers will pay the same price per unit from the manufacturer how much does the retailer get back from the manufacturer? the cost of their stock or the cost that the original retailer paid for the item?

      Next issue is that if I buy say a phone from apple... Can I then take that back to Asda for an exchange if it stops working? What happens if I take the phone back to asda exchange it and then when they send it back to apple they realise that ive dropped it down the toilet and dried it out and its not covered by warranty?

      With point 6 it seems to me like you are trying to solve a problem that doesn't exist.

      Loads of items already have serial numbers that the manufacturers can tie to an item, you don't need a receipt... Case in point : I was given an old (1st gen) iPod nano to use at the gym because I kept dropping my phone. I promptly put the nano and my shorts in the wash, it didn't work when it came out.

      Now I had NO receipt, the iPod wasn't new when the previous owner bought it and it was most definitely NOT going to be covered under any warranty however I did know that some of these iPods were recalled for (Drum Roll) Faulty batteries, so I phoned apple, gave them the serial number, they were able to tell me when it was bought when the warranty expired and that it was indeed covered by the recall 10 days later I have a brand new iPod Nano (64gb).

      So really I dont think that we need to be trying to implement an EU wide database, we can already do most of what you are talking about - and the returning to any retailer is just mental!

      PS, This nano is the only apple device that I own, I wouldn't have bought one off my own back, but I really cant fault apple for their service on this occasion, no complaints no mention that its clearly been washed in the machine just a "Yep its been recalled, we will send a courier to collect it and get your new one out to you"

    3. IWVC

      Re: A symptom of CE

      That's what used to be covered by the British Standards Kite Mark. As I recall there are several variations of "CE" marking, from manufacturers simply marking products to self declare their conformity with a CEN standard (the euro equivalent to British Standards) to 3rd party "type testing" with fully documented Quality Control procedures - ie random samples checked from production. My EE Power bar (yet to be returned) has a CE stamp but no reference to a standard. So is there a requirement to meet a standard and if so which one?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: A symptom of CE

        "is there a requirement to meet a standard"

        Yes, for sale within the EU it must meet the CE marking requirements.

        "and if so which one?"

        Iirc, that should be stated on the Declaration of Conformity which should be available from the supplier somewhere. May be more than one standard.

        Supplier = original manufacturer, or authorised European representative (eg importer into Europe).

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CE_marking#Declaration_of_conformity

        Missing from this picture:

        (1) How Joe Public finds a Declaration of Conformity. In properly done stuff it'll be with the instructions or similar.

        (2) How Joe Public determines whether the claimed applicable standards (Low Voltage Directive, EMC Directive, or whatever) are actually applicable and are actually the complete set of those applicable.

        1. razorfishsl

          Re: A symptom of CE

          Massive FAIL........

          Please don't talk about things you do not understand.

          CE allows SELF CERTIFICATION!!!!!!!! , so basically any assumption that a product is safe/suitable just because it has CE marking is fucking ridiculous.....

      2. razorfishsl

        Re: A symptom of CE

        One thing that people do not realize it that many of these so called 'standards' are actually not legally enforced and you can quite legally do something called 'self certification'

        It is big money... any complete tosser can set themselves up as a test laboratory and start handing out certification, the difference is in something called 'accreditation' this is where a 'test house' can get a credited by another 'test house' and that is supposed to validate their test procedure.

        The problem is , the standards are open to interpretation and no company wants to put a product thru a test house and have it fail.

        I know of several BIG test-houses and manufacturers who, fail to correctly evaluate products and some even have BSI and kite-marking.

        Even the BSI allows a manufacturer to submit 'samples' of production to extend their accreditation.

        Just tehy don't seem to validate WHICH or WHEN that production was made.

  9. Anonymous South African Coward
    Trollface

    Pfft, you youngsters did not experience the dark old days, before mobile phones, when all we had was pagers, or nothing.

    Wussies, the lot of you who can't survive ten minutes without pecking at your cellphone like a chicken on steroids.

    1. Richard Taylor 2
      Happy

      Pahh - you didn't know how lucky you were - we had to make use of semaphore - and even that didn't work on foggy days

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Humbug, you young whippersnapper

        back when I were a boy, we didn't have cloth for such luxuries as semaphore flags. All we had were our willy's to wave, cuz our hands were too small to see. And even that didn't work well on cold days.

      2. PNGuinn
        Unhappy

        re Pahh

        YOU didn't know how lucky YOU were..

        If t'wert foggy OUR dad'd mekus wave't blankets abaht 't disperse 't fog afore we got 't breakfast!

        AN' we 'ad 't catch sheep, shear sheep, mek new coat fer't sheep, spinn't wool...

        Kids today...

        1. BongoJoe

          Re: re Pahh

          I think you went wrong when you failed to use the wool to make the semaphore flags.

          Yours with bags of black wool to card and spin...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "...when all we had was pagers..."

      What an utter noobie.

    3. This post has been deleted by its author

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    interesting comment from spokesbod

    “We strongly refute any suggestion that safety concerns were ignored or dismissed without careful consideration."

    Doesn't that imply that they did know, but ignored and dismissed them after careful consideration.

    i.e

    we have spent a shit load of £££ on this marketing gimmick, but we might burn some buildings down/people but sod it release them anyway!!!!.

    only speculating that a marketing bod might have not really thought it through!!

    1. Ralph B
      Headmaster

      Re: interesting comment from spokesbod

      The spoketard's incompetent use of English gives me no confidence that their handling of safety issues is done any better.

      1. Ralph B
        Headmaster

        Re: interesting comment from spokesbod

        And, as if to prove Muphry's Law, the link I should have provided is actually this one.

        (The EE spokesman was not refuting any suggestion that safety concerns were ignored (since the suggestions were not proved false), neither was he rebutting the suggestions (since, as far as I am aware, no counter evidence was offered). He was merely denying the suggestions.)

  11. GreyWolf
    Pint

    I returned two batteries yesterday in the recall

    Got a £20 voucher for each, to spend in EE online shop.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I returned two batteries yesterday in the recall

      "Got a £20 voucher for each, to spend in EE online shop."

      If it's anything like most service companies "on line shops", you'll shortly find out that forty quid will buy an awful lot of tumbleweed.

    2. PNGuinn
      Go

      Re: I returned two batteries yesterday in the recall

      Should have asked 'em (slightly loudly) for a couple of o2 vouchers instead to use on Giffgaff. Would have been worth it just for the annoyance value.

  12. Matt Bridge-Wilkinson

    I've had my hand burned by a iphone cable that melted, these things happen when battery charging is involved. Electronics have risk and most of us don't educate ourselves on what they are. After the event I educated myself and changed the way I used things and more importantly never charge anything when I am not present or on or near flammable things.

    1.5million batteries? One documented issue? I'm no expert but that risk is very very low based on the info available...

    1. Suricou Raven

      Humans are terrible at assessing risk. They overestimate risks that involve something spectacular, or that are the work of an active agent, or are so rare as to be highly reported. Exploding batteries are both spectacular and highly reported. They underestimate risks of events for which there is no responsible agent or that happen so often as to be no longer worth reporting upon, like traffic accidents.

      My favorate example: In each period of a little over a month, the US loses as many citizens to traffic accidents as it lose in the 9/11 terrorist attack. Yet the country has not declared a 'war on roads,' or spent trillions on road safety investments. Road deaths are boring, no-one cares about them, but people live in fear of terrorist attack - even though they are many times more likely to be hit by a car than bombed by a terrorist.

  13. Hellcat

    Am I missing something?

    It's said she was asleep with the bar charging from her laptop. Was she sleeping holding the bar, or was there something else going on causing her to get the burns?

    When things explode my first reaction isn't "better go grab it"

    1. cray74

      Re: Am I missing something?

      When things explode my first reaction isn't "better go grab it"

      You're not her. She tried to put the flames out with her hands.

      http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/article/33674966/ee-phone-charger-explodes-student-sustains-burns-as-bedroom-floor-catches-fire

      I'd say something snarky about her emergency response, but:

      1) She's been literally burned with some nasty second degree burns. Metaphorical burns from a commentard on teh interwebs isn't going to improve the lesson she took from this.

      2) I react with panic and frantic fumbling when my alarm clock goes off at 5am so I can't expect to do better with a flaming bed. Tossing stones in glass houses and all that.

      Points to her mom for the wet towel. That was a good, quick response to the fire.

    2. Richard Hewitt

      Re: Am I missing something?

      Yes. Paraphrasing news reports: Said power bar shot off across the room like a rocket, landed under the poor girls bed. She woke, panicked about the resultant fire and tried to put it out with her hands.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: Am I missing something?

        Said power bar shot off across the room like a rocket, landed under the poor girls bed.

        Sounds like a SWAT team performing a vist. I would have fired a few 5.56 through the window to make them chill the fuck out.

      2. Zmodem

        Re: Am I missing something?

        its her own fault for being burn`t, a fire won`t burn down your house in 30 seconds it takes to get a slipper or the upstairs foam extinguisher that costs £15

        1. Zmodem

          Re: Am I missing something?

          you can get a 2ltr extinguisher for £9 >> http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/FIRE-EXTINGUISHER-Dry-Powder-1kg-2kg-4kg-6kg-Foam-2l-6l-Litre-Fire-Protection-/300939737517?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_3&var=&hash=item461167f9ad

          2ltr is enough for half a kitchen, in a modern house with non flammable everything

          and a pair of magic oven gloves >> http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/2Pcs-MAGIC-OVEN-GLOVE-HIGH-HEAT-FLAME-RESISTANT-SAFE-GRIP-COOKING-BAKING-TM-/201178690588?hash=item2ed72f341c

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Am I missing something?

            Yes, but will $PREFERRED_ONLINE_SHOP deliver within 30 seconds?

            1. Zmodem

              Re: Am I missing something?

              seeing they are cheap as chips now a days there is no point you not having at least 1 some where in your house, you will probably have a extinguisher in your car, they are still probably £40 in halfords

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Am I missing something?

                Aren't at least some lithium battery fires self-sustaining? The batteries already have the oxygen, and the fire creates more heat than any practical extinguisher can suppress?

                A fire extinguisher, properly chosen and used, is still a fine idea. And in the kitchen, a fire blanket may be just as useful.

          2. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Am I missing something?

            "2ltr is enough for half a kitchen, in a modern house with non flammable everything"

            1: Most people don't have one

            2: Of the ones who do, they're usually positioned badly (Do you have one near your bedrooms?)

            3: They're also usually only half that size.

            1. Zmodem

              Re: Am I missing something?

              "1: Most people don't have one

              2: Of the ones who do, they're usually positioned badly (Do you have one near your bedrooms?)

              3: They're also usually only half that size."

              1: its probably an unknown law to have a extinguisher in your car, to go with your hazard triangle in the uk

              2: why would you have 1 in a bedroom, you can just put it on the inside of your airing cupbored if you have some wall mounts

              3: hire cars have small rubbish extinguishers, normal people buy a proper size 1

              4: 25 condoms for £5 on ebay = good, ebay are only highstreet shops and whole salers, argos, currys etc sell b-stock

          3. Suricou Raven

            Re: Am I missing something?

            There are two things that I am never going to buy off eBay: Fire extinguishers and condoms.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    pilot error

    wonder if the Bin Ladens were using one the other day?

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  15. Alan Brown Silver badge

    Liability coverage

    If the register was to be socially responsible and pass those documents to EE's in-sewer-ants company they may well find that they've blown their liability cover.

    And the HSE may well decide that the management who pushed them out despite safety warnings have personal liability for prosecution, given there's been an injury.

    Pigs might fly too.

  16. MassiveBob

    spent five hours in A&E

    Last week, I also spent about five hours in A&E for a chip fracture on my finger.

    The actual treatment time (including the x-rays) was about 15 minutes and the rest was spent waiting for a doctor.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cheap Chinese Fireworks

    I can say with some confidence that EE will have conducted the necessary initial risk assessments on this product , the initial samples tested will no doubt have been to the required standard.

    However as their demand grew from 1M to allegedly 5m+ , the supplier will have had to out source production to meet that demand and that's when the problems will have originated as QC became lax.

    The further down the Chinese made battery food chain you go , the more you'll see recycled Lithium (from laptop batteries) and inferior overcharge circuitry that leads to increased failure rates we're seeing here.

    This is a case of putting profit before users safety somewhere down the line and should send a shockwave through the industry and retail about buying cheap batteries from Asia.

    1. Mike Pellatt

      Re: Cheap Chinese Fireworks

      Let me tell you a little tale. Recently bought a cheap replacement laptop charger (as you do). After a few hours, it stop working.

      Turned out the plug fuse had blown.

      A 13A fuse in the plug for a lead that quite clearly wasn't so rated. This is a clear fire hazard.

      emailed the dickhead eBay seller, and suggested it was in his interests to recall these mains leads. (S)he utterly failed to understand the issue.

      5A fuses kept blowing randomly. Replaced the lead. All good. Clearly a faulty mains lead. But a 13A fuse ? Sheesh.

      Then there was the ice maker bought off Amazon. Clearly not double-insulated, and had a Schuko plug with an earth connector. Supplied with a UK - Schuko adaptor which had no earth connection on the socket side.

  18. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Safety?

    They've heard of it... possibly.

    How is it that a faulty lead can cause the battery to go into fire-mode? Is it not extremely well known that such batteries can supply a massive current into a short circuit? Do these people not know of the special sacrificial device called a fuse?

    1. Suricou Raven

      Re: Safety?

      Exploding li-ion cells are usually due to an internal short. An external fuse wouldn't help. Poor charging practice (over-charging, charging too fast, neglect of temperature monitoring or a mechanical mounting that compresses the cells) causes damage to the insulator inside. Once it shorts even a little the heat produced quickly causes additional damage that quickly leads to thermal runaway and boom.

  19. Camilla Smythe

    Wuh!!

    It is not as if battery charging technology is poorly understood but, wet finger, presumably EE had some proper charging technology to prolong the life of their stock but then promptly buggered up on the battery discharging technology. Duh-Oh.

  20. david 12 Silver badge

    "a risk that the"

    Documents listing "risks" mean nothing. Absolutely nothing. It is a requirement of "risk assessment" that you write down long lists of absolutely anything you can think of -- "sun may go out", "change of orbit of earth"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "a risk that the"

      "Documents listing "risks" mean nothing. Absolutely nothing. It is a requirement of "risk assessment" that you write down long lists of absolutely anything you can think of -- "sun may go out", "change of orbit of earth""

      Chainsaw operative without properly maintained tools and without proper personal protective equipment.

      Yes the lists can be long and tedious.

      That's why some analysis needs to be used as well as the list. There are things not worth worrying about (tsunami in south west england) and things where attention needs to be paid (chainsaw operative).

      Have a safe weekend. Take only those risks you have considered appropriate. Don't accept having unnecessary risks imposed on you.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "a risk that the"

        "Gabelstaplerfahrer Klaus" reference needed.

      2. Pookietoo
        Thumb Up

        Re: Have a safe weekend.

        Hehe - this weekend I fixed my chainsaw. Still have thumbs.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    e-cig angle ?

    I'm amazed this hasn't been linked to smoking e-cigs and toxic nicotine. EE doing e-juice soon ?...Bet you a tenner EE powerbar not banned at work but charging an e-cig oh that's dangerous.

    My beef with this is, e-cig users have been saying for ages that e-cigs aren't the problem the issue is Lithium Polymer and Li Ion battery when not using the correct charger. A laptop usb port is not the correct charger. The same goes for mobiles any other devices powered by Li Ion. i.e don't blame the device blame the miss use of chargers. I think we need to go back to the non-standard connector types because people are just not trustworthy enough to stick to whats safe, instead if it fits it must work is the only misguided logic people seem to have.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Interesting EE Quote...

    “We strongly refute any suggestion that safety concerns were ignored or dismissed without careful consideration. The product was subject to a rigorous testing process by our safety and products teams and all EE Power Bars meet EC electrical safety standards.”

    So the safety concerns were ignored and dismissed AFTER careful consideration?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Interesting EE Quote...

      That's how it works, anon.

      Or back to NiCd batteries.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Interesting EE Quote...

      I was going to post that, but first I read the comments to see if anyone else had, and you're a day late.

  23. Stuart Halliday
    Flame

    Just a wee knock on your power pack can dislodge crystals within the battery and cause a short circuit that leads to heat and potential disaster.

    I once dropped a spare phone battery onto the carpet and noticed a few minutes later it was heating up. Within 30 minutes it was hot, so I decided to put it outside on a slab of concrete. It swelled up and blistered. I disposed of it at the recycling plant in the morning.

  24. Mike 125

    EE adverts..

    I'm intrigued that EE advertising appears down both sides of Reg's home page and other stories. But click on this one, and it disappears - completely blank. Biting the Hand.. but within reason!! Respect! Or probably just complete coincidence.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    orly

    "We will discuss with customers [, compensation] on an individual basis."

    Anyone care to advise on what to expect in such situations?

    Silence from the mentioned party suggests a "hearty" OoC settlement.

    20squids for online use only for other potential victims, who can only raise individually, not en masse (heaven forbid knowingly endangering a group should be classed as such, and redressed on a group basis)

  26. Fibbles
  27. Andyf

    "The firm's spokesbeings said:

    “We strongly refute any suggestion that safety concerns were ignored or dismissed without careful consideration."

    So the decision to ignore or dismiss the safety concerns was made after careful consideration.

    That makes it all alright then.

    Muppets.

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