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Verizon recalling 2.5M hotspots over dangerous defect

Device battery can overheat, cause burns or fire
Posted at 5:01 PM, May 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-18 18:28:53-04

TAMPA, Fla. — Verizon is recalling 2.5 million hotspots over a dangerous defect.

The recall impacts the Ellipsis Jetpack mobile hotspots sold by Verizon between 2017 and 2021. Hotspot devices allow users to use the internet whenever they are in an area with no service.

The battery in these devices can overheat, causing a burning or fire danger. According to the recall notice from the Consumer Product Safety Commission, Verizon received 15 reports of hotspots overheating. And according to the recall, some of these hotspots were supplied to students by their schools for remote learning.

Tammy Barfels owns one of the recalled models.

"I've been messing around with the thing trying to get it to work," said Tammy, who says no one notified her about the recall over a fire hazard until her hotspot malfunctioned and she took it to a local Verizon store.

ABC Action News checked with Verizon. The company said in an email, "Everyone in our system that had one of the affected hotspots received an email back in April."

Verizon said they sent an update to the software in the device to reduce the risk of overheating. But for it to work, the hotspot had to be turned on.

In Tammy's case, she said the company told her she'd have to wait weeks for a replacement.

"In six to eight weeks, they would send me an empty box, and then I could take this unit and put it in the box and send it back to them," she said.

Tammy explained to Verizon customer service that her unit was not working, so the updates would not have worked. She pays monthly for the hotspot usage, her only access to the internet.

Here's why customers like Tammy can't just pick up a replacement at their local Verizon store. Lithium batteries require special packaging when they are shipped. Verizon has hired a third party to handle that process, and the wait time to get the unit returned and replaced can take weeks. Click here for more information on the recall and how to request a replacement.