HP Adapter Catches Fire, Burns Pants, Execs Ignore

UPDATE: HP Calls About Pants Burnin’ Laptop

Pants pants, burning bright, in my house in the night, thanks to a malfunctioning power adapter for the HP dv2845se. It’s no Blake but it is what happened to reader Jillian Madison. While she was using her laptop, her adapter started sparking and burst into flames, burning a hole in her pants and causing a welt on her legs. Now, after dozens of phone calls and emails to HP executive support and HP executives, and 6 weeks of waiting, she hasn’t heard a thing back from HP, though she says some reps have given her an earful of rudeness.

On April 9th, 2009, the power adapter to my gently used, well cared for 11-month old HP dv2845se laptop randomly started sparking (where it connects to the laptop) and quickly burst into flames while I was using it. It was so bad that the sparks burned a hole in my pants, and caused a welt on my leg. I’m not exaggerating when I say had I not been at home to unplug the adapter from the wall, this quite possibly could have burned down my home and injured/killed my pets/family, etc.

You’d think HP would promptly react to such a safety issue and possible PR disaster, right? WRONG. During the first week after the adapter caught on fire, I made dozens of phonecalls to the Executive Customer Service number you provided, but was dismissed and blown off by everyone I spoke to. Reps Angie, Rochelle, and Kathy rudely told me there was nothing they could do, and that I had to sit around and wait for someone in their safety team to contact me. At one point, I even asked an INCREDIBLY rude rep named Yun-Sil to let me speak to a manager. She said he wasn’t available but he’d call me back within 2 hours. I asked for the manager’s name (Jeff Yutigard), but to this day, he hasn’t called me back.

It took Harry Jeffery at the HP safety team almost 2 weeks to contact me. I immediately sent my burned power adapter back to them via FedEx, but have not heard back from anyone since that time. I’ve written dozens of emails and made 10+ phonecalls to Harry Jeffery and to other “executives” at HP, but they are all ignoring me. I even emailed executives Jon Flaxman, Shane Robinson, Ann Livermore, and Mark Hurd at the suggestion of one of your commenters, but have not gotten any reply. Harry Jeffery won’t return my phonecalls and should be fired.

I certainly don’t appreciate being sold faulty, cheap equipment – and then being mocked and ignored by HP employees after the fact. One thing is for sure – I certainly won’t go away until this issue is resolved. And in the meanwhile, I urge all readers to use caution with their power adapters and unplug them when you’re not using them. Because trust me, your whole house could be burned down by their faulty equipment and they wouldn’t care. They have your money.

Jillian Madison

Sounds like HP might need to expand that recall.

(Photos: reversedecay, cag2012)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Darrone says:

    Call the law offices of sheister sheister and sheister. They’ll fight for YOU.

  2. tgrwillki says:

    I’m surprised they didn’t call the OP a liar… the pants were on fire.

  3. Andrew Mussey says:

    I have a Presario V2000 and had the brick begin sparking at about the one and a half year point. I figured since it was out of the one year warranty to just set it aside and pick up a new one. Even the replacement after I purchased it was scaldingly hot.

  4. Cocoa Vanilla says:

    OMG. She hurt herself (personal injury) and they’re NOT jumping to give her something? Wow. Never thought I’d see that.

    HP, you’re the most incompetent company in the world. EVERY FREAKING COMPANY KNOWS THIS. I hope the OP sues them and wins.

    • Cocoa Vanilla says:

      @Cocoa Vanilla: FYI, I had a certain Apple product get real hot on me, and smell like burning wires. I called Apple and they basically jumped. It took about 10 seconds to get someone on the phone asking me all about it (were you injured, was there a fire, was the fire dept. called, blah blah blah). And they resolved it pretty quickly.

    • William Gu says:

      @Cocoa Vanilla: I had the same issue with Apple but they overnighted a new adapter and just asked me to throw away the old one. Nothing happened either, just the end of the adapter was coming apart and I thought I saw a little bit of smoke. The CS was very through and asked me a bunch of questions about me. (Example: “Are you injured?”)

      Immediately advised me to not use it anymore and I received the new one the next day. I also want to add Apple repair has never taken more than three days with my laptop. Highly satisfied with their CS.

      • Cocoa Vanilla says:

        @William Gu: Yep, they always ask those questions I assume. (They did to me as well.) While they can be annoying I think it’s better of them to do that than not to.

  5. codepage9 says:

    This looks like a job for Pantsman!


  6. nakedscience says:

    Wow, this could get them into some hot water.

  7. jimconsumer says:

    Send another batch of emails and make a couple more phone calls. Tell them you’re going to call a personal injury attorney if they don’t resolve this within 48 hours. If they ignore you, follow through.

    I’m not a big “sue ’em” guy, but these idiots are just begging for it.

  8. Murph1908 says:

    Any chance you can sue them in DC? Maybe you’ll get the Mr. Fancypants judge who sued the dry cleaner for $65 million.

    If that’s the value he puts on pants, you’re set!

  9. Black-Cat says:

    Horror stories of HP abound. Things like this are exactly why I went with the Acer Aspire netbook instead of the flimsy p.o.s. HP one.

    • frari489 says:


      Yep, I’d never buy a HP laptop after reading the stories on this site.

    • your new nemesis says:

      @Black-Cat: I’ll agree, I like my Acer. I hear that they aren’t as high quality as some other “name” brands, but I haven’t had a problem with it crashing (anymore than usual, considering I have Vista on it) and it has never started on fire. Say what you will about off brand computers, but I like them.

  10. SJ Stanaitis says:

    I’ve dealt with Rutiger in the past, and at least in my case, he was very helpful and got the problem taken care of quickly. I’d bug him again.

  11. haoshufu says:

    The story does not quite make out. I assume this is a laptop.

    So first “It was so bad that the sparks burned a hole in my pants, and caused a welt on my leg.” I have used laptop for over 10 years and I don’t remember the last time I had the adapter sitting on my leg.

    Then, “had I not been at home to unplug the adapter …” Isn’t this redundent?

    Besides, first sign of sparking at the AC adapter, she should have unplugged it from the wall. And yet, she continued to use it and also put it on her leg. Who would put a sparking AC adapter on their leg?

    Does she even have a doctor’s report that the burn was caused by the AC adapter? If I were to go after HP for this, I would definitely get a medical report documenting this, especially the burn was so bad that “this quite possibly could have burned down my home and injured/killed my pets/family, etc”.

    • ResedaDaboot says:

      @haoshufu: Are you just not caffeinated this morning?


    • HiPwr says:

      @haoshufu: She didn’t say that she had the adapter sitting on her leg. Although it would have to have been very close to her leg or the sparks would need to be quite lively. I also find the spark burning her pants and causing an injury a little suspect as well, though. It actually couldn’t have been a spark, but an actual piece of burning debris.

      At any rate, if all she is looking for is a replacement adapter, I don’t think that is unreasonable at all.

    • CrowMignon says:

      @haoshufu: The OP said the adaptor “randomly started sparking (where it connects to the laptop)” – I assume that where it connects to the laptop is probably close to the lap area when the laptop is on the lap. This is also where we store legs and, consequently, pants.

      You can’t just ignore the words inside parentheses. (You moron.)

      You also say that you “assume this is a laptop” – no assumption is necessary as that data was clearly presented in the post.

      I guess I just have to boil it down to: You can’t just ignore words. They are the part of the article that contains the most information.

      • haoshufu says:

        @CrowMignon: BTW, making points on other people’s comments are great. However, I can’t believe editors on this web site allow name calling and personal attack. I might want to keep this as a record so if I start calling names on others, I have proof that this is so silently allowed on this web site.

        • CrowMignon says:

          @haoshufu: It was in parentheses, I was testing to see if you would read it this time.

        • HiPwr says:

          @haoshufu: Name calling is allowed here, so feel free to call CrowMignon an asshole for calling you a moron. Of course if you are older than 15, you could avoid name calling altogether.

          • CrowMignon says:

            @HiPwr: I indulged myself in that bit of name-calling in response to his attack on the OP. Assholishness in kind, if you will. He insinuated she was making the injury up, he stated that her complaint was unclear, and he implied that she was stupid. If, after reading the article, he really believed any of these things, then perhaps, using the term loosely and in the popular meaning, he IS a moron.

            That and I thought the parentheses thing was funny.

            • nakedscience says:

              @CrowMignon: The parentheses thing WAS funny and I’m not surprised it flew right over his head, seeing as the entire original post flew right over his head.

            • Trai_Dep says:

              @CrowMignon: You weren’t name-calling.
              Your post was hilariously full of both verve and snark. Really, the best comment of the day. Both of my legs – and consequently, my pants – approve.

        • DAK says:

          @haoshufu: I’m normally the first to jump on the supposed stupidity of the person complaining, but in this case, there really does appear to be some merit to the complaint. You clearly didn’t read the entire account, or you didn’t understand it. I suspect that it’s a little of both.

      • veg-o-matic says:

        @CrowMignon: It may be finals week gradingbrainout, but I did chuckle.

        Assholishness aside. a’course, that’s what usually gives me the giggles anyhow.

    • hedonia says:

      @haoshufu: Wow, you SO lose at reading.

      It sparked at the connection between the laptop and the adapter. If her laptop was on her lap, that part would be right next to her legs, touching her pants.

      I also don’t understand your lack of understanding here:

      You say: ‘Then, “had I not been at home to unplug the adapter …” Isn’t this redundent?’ (sic).

      She’s saying that if it had been plugged in and this happened while she wasn’t home, the sparking was so bad that it very likely would have caused a serious house fire that could have injured people and caused very serious property damage. How is that in any way redundant?

    • haoshufu says:

      @haoshufu: I think the bottom line is if she is trying to get a replacement adapter, it should not be a problem. However, looks like from the get go she was looking for more, maybe some other comps on top of the adapter. In this case, you better get some medical report to show that your burn was in fact created by whatever you claim. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying HP is in the right but if you want to get HP, do everything right cause they have a hugh legal team behind them that can think up some odd ball reasons accusing you of misuse yourself.

      • nakedscience says:

        @haoshufu: Awww, someone hurt your feelings!

        And nowhere does it seem like she was “trying to get more”. She wasn’t even able to get answers!

        You’d think HP would promptly react to such a safety issue and possible PR disaster, right? WRONG. During the first week after the adapter caught on fire, I made dozens of phonecalls to the Executive Customer Service number you provided, but was dismissed and blown off by everyone I spoke to. Reps Angie, Rochelle, and Kathy rudely told me there was nothing they could do, and that I had to sit around and wait for someone in their safety team to contact me.

        It seems to me there is always SOMEONE who does not read and/or fully understand what they read, and are gung-ho about blaming the OP. “How could she burn herself?!”

        You second-guessed her at every turn, yet were completely off-base on every critism. I think the (you moron) was pretty apt.

        • dave_coder says:

          @nakedscience: Read the followup. HP responded by sending her a replacement (something she now admits happened) and offered her a repair on the laptop.

          She said no to the repair and wants HP to buyout the laptop. Unreasonable.

  12. HiPwr says:

    I hope she sent her adapter by means requiring a receipt or she may SOL if they say they never got it.

  13. jpdanzig says:

    This is unbelievably f*cked up. Shame on HP!

    I will never buy one of their products again.

    I had one of their laser printers, and what a clunky, noisy piece of junk that was!

    The Brother laser printer I have now just blows the HP away…

    • HogwartsAlum says:


      I LOVE their printers (have an 840C inkjet that’s way old and still works great), but I wouldn’t buy a laptop from them. I’m-a loving my Toshiba, baby!

  14. solmssen says:

    Laptop power adapters break a lot, and it’s mainly because people wrap the cords too tightly. I see it all the time. Leave a little slack at the join between the cord and the body of the adapter (don’t pull it tight), and be sure not to bend the cable where it enters the DC plug itself. From what the OP describes, I would not be surprised if the adapter shorted at the point where the DC cable enters the plug, and when that happens, it’s usually because that join has been repeatedly bent to the point of breaking the insulation. I’m not a big fan of blame the OP here, but this type of damage is something I see repeatedly in my experience fixing laptops of all brands.

    • HiPwr says:

      @solmssen: Excellent insight. It sounds like they could address this issue by stiffening those critical areas so that they cannot be bent so drastically.

    • Skaperen says:

      @solmssen: I see this kind of problem, too. But I also see SOME adapters designed to deal with it.

      It is common that cords will be bent and pulled. That’s why a lot of them have those rubber extensions where they go to the adapter box, which prevents a sharp bending angle at that point.

      Some adapters are not properly fused or current limited. A short on the DC side will burn up the adapter. This is one possible scenario of what happened in this story.

      I have little experience with laptop adapters specifically, but a lot with other kinds of power conversion devices. Some are made very very cheap and can simply just burn up internally even though used in a normal way. I’ve done post-mortem on some, and found bad capacitors, bad transformer winding insulation, and even just poorly soldered connections, that have caused these to self-destruct.

      Given that HP makes an effort to prevent their laptop users from using 3rd-party power devices, it’s clear to me they are trying to derive large profits from even these components by making them as cheap as they feel they can get away with.

      I won’t buy an HP laptop. This story just adds one more reason to many.

  15. yevarechecha says:

    Our neighbor’s house caught fire last night. I wonder if they own an HP laptop.

  16. valen says:

    This sounds like an issue for the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

    • Mykie Gunderson says:

      @valen: Even if HP does issue a recall for the adaptors, it will most likely be a pretend recall.

    • sirwired says:

      @valen: I agree… filing a CPSC complaint usually gets the attention of somebody at the company. I know through experience that “e-mailing the CEO” at HP is a total waste of time. You might as well be calling their useless customer service department… if it ain’t on the script, you ain’t getting help.

      After a month of fighting Char Broil on a grill that nearly set my deck on fire, one call to the CPSC, and I had a VP groveling over the phone in a week, and a recall two weeks later.

  17. bobloblawsblog says:

    Get a lawyer! LAwyers love defective product lawsuits.

    • Skaperen says:

      @bobloblawsblog: Is there a company around that would like to AVOID situations like that by actually trying to deal with their customers properly? Seems to be way too few. And THEY wonder why people are demanding change?

    • dumblonde says:

      @bobloblawsblog: Because defective product lawsuits are straightforward and you can make a lot of money from them especially in a case like this. Power adapters are NOT supposed to catch fire.

  18. Sherwood Vaillancourt says:


    She’s getting no response because it’s a used laptop. I notice how she didn’t mention if she bought it from HP or from a third party. And normally, they do get hot, but why was it on her leg?

    HP should replace it, but nothing else. If she would have started at the bottom rather than going straight to an EECB and attention grabbing, I predict she would have received better results.

    • larrymac thinks testing should have occurred says:

      @Sherwood Vaillancourt: Reading comprehension. It’s not just for breakfast any more. She said it’s “gently used”. That means she has been using it, gently.

    • veg-o-matic says:

      @Sherwood Vaillancourt: Laptops go on laps. The tops of laps, anyway.

      Being less than a year old, “gently used” and “well cared for” sure makes it sound like it was purchased direct from HP.

      And if you actually read her story, you’d see that she spoke to numerous “at the bottom” reps prior to EECBing.

      Try reading.

      • Cocoa Vanilla says:

        @veg-o-matic: Maybe it’s not a laptop.. maybe it’s a notebook. (Yeah, Apple tried to pull that a few years ago. Wouldn’t surprise me if HP did. But they’re still liable for the personal injury and the equipment.)

    • Mari Walker says:

      @Sherwood Vaillancourt: Reading the article might help you understand the article.

  19. TEW says:

    I had the same problem with my Pavilion dv6000’s power cord. It would spark but I think it was because my dog got a hold of it not because of any defect. It would spark every time I moved the cord with it plugged in and the sparks hurt. I see the OP’s point but I do wonder why she did not buy another power adapter. BTW the first time I saw a spark I vowed to never leave it unattended while it had power and I bought another power cord from eBay new for $20. I think this whole mess could have been avoided.

  20. AngryK9 says:

    Ouch! That smarts!

  21. David Burgher says:

    Well obviously you can’t believe someone whose pants are on fire, that’s one of the first things you learn in kindergarten.

  22. Anonymous says:

    She said “gently used” not a “used” laptop. Eg she wasn’t slinging it around and doing things that would cause the wires to go all kablooey. Also she said “11 months” not years.

  23. Anonymous says:

    hplies.com — This problem is specifically unique, but so many people are having problems with HP’s customer support right now. Hell, my machine caught on fire, and HP wanted to “look at it,” and sent it back with the burn marks gone, (but still broken) and said, “Not our fault. Never burnt.” Too bad I took before/after pictures. Ugh.

  24. alienshards says:

    Once I put my dell xps to sleep and stuck in in a bag on my bed. I came back 2 hours later to find the battery drained and the case too hot to touch.

    I called xps tech support expecting to maybe get a new battery. What I got was a new computer, overnighted to me, as well as the offer to pay for anything damaged by the incident. (nothing was)

    Which goes to show why I dumped HP for dell (my last HP kept crashing at inopportune moments (think final paper due tomorrow) , and HP claimed it was normal operation for the laptop. )

  25. Rachacha says:

    ADVICE FOR THE OP (and anyone else who faces this issue in the future):
    1) File a complaint with the CPSC [www.cpsc.gov]
    2) Notify the Safety Certification Laboratory that certified the product (With HP, it is probably UL) [www.ul.com]
    3) Notify the Manufacturer (the OP already did this)
    By notifying these three groups you are assured that the issue is being brought to the attention of the appropriate people who have the power to do something about it (i.e. get the product off the market if warranted)

    Hopefully you took photos of the power supply and the laptop, and have a record of the Serial Number and to whom the damaged equipment was sent. This way, you can provide it to the CPSC or the test lab should they decide to examine your case further.

    It seems like HP is reviewing the damaged product internally. Their goal is to determine if this is an isolated incedent with this one individual unit, or if it is a sign of a more widespread problem. This is standard practice, and a full forensic safety investigation like this can take 4-6 weeks or more to complete to determine what happened. It is possible that HP has already contacted the CPSC (as they are required to do) and they are working on a recall resolution. If this is the case, HP will probably be tight lipped about it until the recall is anounced.

    My experience – Product safety investigation work and dealing with test labs and government regulators about safety issues for 14 years.

  26. lotussix says:

    I’ve written dozens of emails … but have not gotten any reply. Harry Jeffery won’t return my phonecalls and should be fired.

    it’s not the op’s place to decide what disciplinary action should be done. i doubt any will be done since the company is following their procedures on how to handle this type of thing. if it was a previously recalled unit a new one probably would have been on her doorstep in two days.

    i also wonder what the e-mails she had sent said… considering she sent a lot of them. if she had threatened legal action, then hp would have no oblication to reply to those and have them forwarded to their legal department.

    • Rachacha says:

      @lotussix: Agreed. Products which are damaged and melt/cause a fire need to be handled very carefully to 1) maintain the integrity of the product sample that was damaged so that you can determine exactly why it failed, and 2) to avoid legal complications.

      What does the OP want from HP? A replacement product? The product to be recalled? Financial compensation for pain and suffering? If it is only a replacement product, that is fairly easy to handle, and for good PR (and to reward a customer who is not threatening to sue), that request can be easily handled. Everything else will take month’s or years to address and needs to run through very specific procedures to avoid massive lawsuits, and fines from regulators.

  27. ninja_in_a_tree says:

    Listen, after what HP has put me through with my TX1000, I hope they get every penny taken from them. They took my money and didn’t blink. Get a taste of your own medicine I say.

  28. bbb111 says:

    This has been mentioned for other issues, but if you mention “lawyer,” “sue,” or any other word relating to legal action many companies will flag the complaint and only their legal department will correspond with you – all others at the company will refuse to talk to you.

    In this case, they may have flagged the complaint as a potential legal problem and are waiting for legal to direct the response. This happened to me once.

    I had an issue with a mutual fund and after the initial contact was stonewalled – the executive office would talk to me but obviously were trained not to say anything that could get them in trouble. I eventually got a letter that carefully restated my complaint and comments without explaining why they did what they did. They referenced a law but refused to state what clause in the 500 page law applied to this situation.

    It was obviously written by a lawyer who knew that they could have a serious problem on their hands. (My accountant said that issue was complicated and they were mostly guilty of bad communication – what they did was wrong, but not clearly illegal.)

    I didn’t pursue it, but I moved my accounts and moved a large account from an estate I was the executor for. [I did this in person at a consumer office at a busy time – two visits (one to close the accounts and another to pick up the checks). Each time when they asked why I was doing this and if there was something they could do to make it right, I told the story about mishandling the account and being lied to … loud enough to be overheard by all the customers but not so loud as to be obviously making trouble.]

  29. paulrules says:

    I’ve had power adapters burn out on me from constant use. When I did an “Electronic Autopsy” (I get funky with names :P) it’s usually that it gets so hot that the wires get de-soldered and allow the electricity to arc….which causes sparks then fires.

    Of course, poorly-constructed Adapters are to blame.

  30. technogirl says:

    The same thing happened to me with my previous HP DV 6000 series laptop and I can tell you what’s going on.

    The point at which the power plug enters the jack is preceded by about an inch of rubbery material used as a strain relief. The strain relief rubber split in two on my laptop which was followed shortly thereafter by the actual power cable breaking from the flex. When the power cable ground shield breaks it tends to spark as the connection is opened and closed. That’s what happened to my adapter – about two months after my warranty ended – so I just bought another one on eBay.

    I bet this is what’s happening to the OP.

  31. CompyPaq says:

    I dealt with Harry Jeffery before. He is a case manager in their safety office. If your computer breaks and they think that it is a fire hazard (or in this case it caught on fire) that department is the only one that can help you. They even have their own technician. If Harry Jeffry is being non-responsive, dial one of the other people in his office using the same number he gave you:
    1 800 756-0608, selection 6, pass code 190 then instead of dialing 39, listen to the other extensions and call one of them. Sandra Ganann is pretty responsive. If you get her voice mail, call the alt. number she provides in it.

  32. Gizmosmonster says:

    A reminder. Please do not start with a call to the Executive Customer service number. That is the LAST resort.

  33. Con Sumer Zealot says:

    Has OP contacted the Attorneys General in her home state and whichever state HP headquarters is in? They have consumer protection divisions…I would also post haste get a class action attorney and consider a civil suit for punitive damages.

    HP headquarters is in Palo Alto, CA.
    California Attorney General Consumer Protection Division:
    Form here: [ag.ca.gov]
    (916) 322-3360
    They may refer you to CPSC, but worth a shot. A letter coming from them to HP Execs might get their attention.

    Have you also looked up to verify any existing recall on this laptop model?

  34. Kendra88 says:

    I had the same problem (sans fire, thanks to my lightning reflexes) with my HP dv1xxxse laptop a few months ago and I can say from personal experience that a new adapter will not solve the problem. I bought a new adapter at my own expense and it was still all sparks.

  35. bluemoose says:

    Yeah, HP is really terrible. I had a product that had been recalled in the US because they’d been sued, but they said if I wanted to get a reimbursement/replacement in Canada, I’d have to sue them myself. A different rep told me they’d be mailing me a free laptop, which for some reason never appeared. They’ll tell you anything to get you off the phone and out of their hair.

  36. Anonymous says:

    I wish to post this as anonymous, because I am an HP employee, at least for a few more weeks.

    The direct phone number for Harry Jeffery is (281)927-2760. His manager is Tim Metcalf and his number is (650)857-6699. Mr. Jeffery is in the Houston office and Mr. Metcalf is in Palo Alto, CA.

  37. golddog says:

    HP blows. Recently bought a Pavillion and adapter runs extremely hot…to the point where I’m not comfortable leaving it sitting on the couch or the carpet. No sparks though. Yet.

    Had crappy wireless reception out of the box and come to discover the wireless card had a mangled antenna connector that didn’t seat right. I said “mail me the connector and I’ll rewire it myself” but they couldn’t fathom how that’d work. When I say “fathom” I’m being kind. The email exchanges w/tech support were sadly hilarious.

  38. HPCommando says:

    Buy a Pavilion or Presario, you get what you paid for.

    That said, one thing sticks out here: OP never contacted HP Tech Support. Indicates that she went straight to the Exec Line.

    WRONG. You *HAVE* to go through the hoops at HP, because they need the ‘chain of evidence’ to be in place to make any case for exchange or return.

    Get a case number and paint it on the wall of your living room to keep it handy. Use it like a bludgeon and don’t let it get inactive (no action by anyone, you or HP, for seven days).

    Anything less, the Exec Line people have no idea if you are legit or someone trying to scam them.

  39. Anonymous says:

    Customer service issues are the number one reason I will never buy HP products again. Loved my HP notebook and numerpous printers, but when I had problems the CSR’s couldn’t have cared less.

  40. Mari Walker says:

    Sounds like it’s lawsuit time!