The European Union isn’t taking reports of potentially dangerous iPhone malfunctions lightly. EU Commissioner for Consumer Protection Meglena Kuneva issued a warning today that iPhones will be pulled from store shelves if it turns out recent screen explosions are hardware-based problems.
Kuneva says the issue is now in the hands of independent labs checking to see if it is in fact something integral to the devices that’s led to the incidents. Apple (s aapl) maintains that the problems are freak exceptions, and seems to have suggested to the EU Commission investigating the matter that users overheating lithium-ion batteries is what’s to blame.
For those not up to date, iPhone owners have reported several separate exploding screen incidents in a number of different countries, including EU member states. The similarity of the accounts and the behavior of the devices up to and including the actual explosions themselves, in addition to the mounting number of incidents reported, led the EU’s Commissioner for Consumer Protection to mount a full-scale investigation into the matter.
Apple’s line has always been that the problems are due to user abuse, not something wrong with the devices themselves. Claims by Commission members that Apple is specifically citing overheated lithium-ion batteries is the closest the company has come to pointing out a specific cause for the incidents.
Commissioner Kuneva also discussed what information she needs to act, and cited another case in which a product was proven dangerous and removed from market:
We need to have 100 percent certainty from one member state that these goods are dangerous. If I receive from the French authorities information that they are dangerous, I will act in the interests of the consumer. I will ask my network for a recall of the product as we did with the Italian (Senseo) coffee machines. There, it was proven that they burned the hands of consumers.
If confirmation comes from any member state investigating the matter in which one of the incidents occurred, a group which includes Britain and Germany in addition to France, the EU will stop the sale of the iPhone across all member countries. This won’t directly affect sales in other international markets, like the U.S., but other countries may be prompted to impose bans of their own following the EU’s findings.
There is little Apple can do at this point besides await the commission’s decision, since any admission of a hardware defect on its part would lead to a product recall and a cessation of sales anyway. Better to wait and see what independent lab testing shows, and have its hand forced in a worst-case scenario.