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Ask Cult of Mac: What Should I Do About My MagSafe Power Adapter Woes?

Ask Cult of Mac: What Should I Do About My MagSafe Power Adapter Woes?

I had previously written the following short article in response to a reader’s question about their MagSafe power adapter. Although the recent class action settlement has seemingly resolved this particular issue, some readers might find it helpful to look at this article as a case study, which may offer some points relevant to other product defects.

“Hi Cult of Mac,

About four months ago I purchased a used 2007 MacBook Pro online from a seller on eBay. Two weeks ago I noticed the charger was discolored and looked like it had started to melt! I can now see the wires inside the cable near the base of where it connects to my MacBook Pro. I don’t think I caused any damage to the cable. I never purchased AppleCare. What should I do?”

***Disclaimer*** 

This article does not constitute legal advice nor does it create any attorney-client relationship between the reader and the author of this article or CultofMac or any of its affiliates. Jonathan Zschau is an attorney, but he is not your attorney. If you have a legal question, contact an attorney duly licensed to practice law within the jurisdiction in which you reside.

Dear Cult of Mac Reader:

Thank you for your email. This is a pretty old issue, but you’re in luck. It seems as if Apple has beaten me to the punch. As of November 8, 2011, Apple has introduced a MagSafe adapter replacement program as part of a recent class action settlement agreement and, therefore, you should be entitled to a free replacement power adapter. Moreover, if you happen to have already purchased a replacement power adapter then you should be entitled to at least a partial reimbursement of the purchase price. This program applies whether or not your MagSafe adapter is still under warranty or AppleCare.

The MagSafe Power Adapter: A Case Study in Consumer Advocacy

It sounds as if your MacBook Pro’s charger may be defective and you should try to have Apple replace it. There is actually a class action lawsuit currently being litigated over these MagSafe adapters, which may lead to a replacement program or other possible options, but it is still in progress. Defective power adapters such as these pose a serious safety risk and, therefore, you should immediately stop using it whether or not Apple agrees to replace the charger. Given the age of your Mac, I have some concerns that you may be facing an uphill battle in your efforts to get Apple to replace it free of charge, but let’s not rule that out quite yet. Let’s start by checking on the status of your MacBook’s warranty and AppleCare. If those have expired maybe Apple is still handling your issue as a special case.

Visit Apple’s Service and Repair site and check the status of your Mac’s One-Year Limited Warranty and AppleCare. It’s very likely that that the warranty has expired, but there’s a chance that your MacBook Pro is still covered by AppleCare. Your MacBook’s previous owner may have bought AppleCare and if it’s still in effect you will likely be able to have your power adapter replaced under AppleCare. Although Apple does provide specific procedures for the transfer of AppleCare plans, in practice they typically treat AppleCare plans as being tied to the product and, therefore, formal transfer of the plan may not be necessary.

Next time you purchase a used Mac it would be a good idea to ask the seller if it has AppleCare coverage and, if it does, arrange to have the plan transferred to you at the time of purchase. If the Mac does not have AppleCare, you may wish to purchase AppleCare coverage for it if it was originally purchased less than one year ago.

If your MacBook Pro is still covered by it’s warranty or AppleCare, then you should contact Apple immediately and have them replace the charger. It’s unlikely that you’ll experience any issues and it really is that simple – take it in and Apple will replace it. Remember also, service under warranty or AppleCare applies to any defect – not just defective power adapters. However, if your MacBook Pro is no longer covered by either its warranty or AppleCare, then the outcome is a bit more uncertain unless we can find some something to indicate Apple is still treating your issue as a special case.

Fortunately, the problem with your MacBook Pro’s power adapter is a very pervasive and well-documented one. In fact, in October 2007 Apple actually recalled and re-designed its MagSafe power adapters due to defects, which caused the power adapters to overheat, melt, and even spark – sound familiar? I think there’s a good chance that your MacBook’s power adapter falls into this category, but there’s also the issue with timing because Apple’s recall of these power adapters unfolded nearly four years ago.

Apple is known for having a very pro-consumer approach to customer service and there’s absolutely no reason why should shouldn’t try to take full advantage of it. Moreover, defects that pose a risk of harm to property or life are taken very seriously. Therefore, in this case, I would expect Apple not to quarrel about timing due to the risk of danger created by the defect. Before you shell out $79.00 on a new power adapter you should give Apple a call and see if they’re still willing to replace your defective one. Remember to explain the symptoms you’re seeing (melting adapter, exposed wires etc.) and be sure to indicate that you were previously unaware of the product recall (provided that is the case). With a little bit of luck it is very likely that Apple will still replace your defective power adapter free of charge. If Apple still refuses to replace your MagSafe, stay tuned because Apple may change its stance on the issue.

Check out Jonathan Zschau’s new book: Buying and Owning a Mac: Secrets Apple Doesn’t Want You to Know, which is now available.

Related
  • Len Williams

    While consumer advocacy does indeed play a part of this story, I’ve observed over the years that Apple in general is extremely good about taking responsibility for product problems or malfunctions. In the last 6 years in 2 different laptops, the Apple Tampa Store has given me 2 brand new batteries without charge when one swelled and the other wasn’t charging to its full capacity. Both of these were long out of warranty, yet I wasn’t charged a thing. When a repair job of one of my laptops took several weeks longer than expected, Apple GAVE me a BRAND NEW 2010 17″ MacBook Pro with an i7 processor, a matte screen, a 7200 RPM 500GB drive and 8GBs of RAM to make up for the delay. Since 1989 when I bought my first Mac SE30, I’ve found Apple to be the most responsible, helpful and consumer-friendly company anywhere.

  • Z Dorey

    Yep they are very good!! even for accidental damage. I was at the apple store in Bluewater in the UK with my daughters iPod that she dropped (smashed screen) apple replaced it free of charge…..

  • Jonathon Atherholt

    wow all of those stories sound better than mine.  the pins in the end of my charger lost their spring pressure, so they could barely reach the metal contacts on the macbook.  we had to play with the adapter and get it at just the right angle so the computer would actually charge.  it would also get so hot you couldn’t touch it for more than a second without actually burning yourself.  i called apple, but because i bought my computer in the spring of 10 and didn’t get the extended warranty, they wouldn’t replace it for me.  i even asked if there had been a recall because my brother had had an issue with his (fraying insulation on the older charger), and they replaced his outside of the warranty.  i ended up grinding down the magnetic part about 1/8 of an inch so the pins would be able to make better contact.  it’s working so far, but i am terribly dissapointed in apple and the quality of the hardware.  the software is great, but why pay twice as much if the hardware breaks after 2 years?

About the author

Jonathan ZschauJonathan was introduced to Apple at the age of five when his family bought its first computer, an Apple IIGS, in 1986. He has owned and used Macs almost exclusively ever since. He is an attorney from Boston, Massachusetts where he focuses on litigation technology. As a contributor he writes about consumer protection issues related to Apple products. He is also the author of Buying and Owning a Mac: Secrets Apple Doesn't Want You to Know.

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