Apple to recall 1.8 million Sony lithium-ion batteries

Vendor’s laptop batteries pose a fire risk

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By  Published  September 1, 2006

Sony’s battery crisis has escalated further with the announcement by Apple that it is recalling 1.8 million of the Japanese vendor’s batteries worldwide due to the fire risk that they pose.

The move comes just weeks after the world’s largest computer maker Dell recalled more than four million of Sony’s lithium-ion batteries because they can cause laptops to overheat and, in rare cases, explode into flames.

Last month’s voluntary recall affects batteries sold between October 2003 through August 2006 for use in Apple’s 12-inch iBook G4, 12-inch PowerBook G4 and 15-inch PowerBook G4.

Apple said it had received nine reports of batteries overheating, including two reports of customers receiving minor burns from handling the overheating computers.

Arab Business Machine (ABM), Apple’s sole distributor in the Middle East, said none of these incidents had taken place in the region and would not comment on how many of the 700,000 faulty batteries sold outside the US were sold in the region.

Sony said the problem with the Apple batteries was the same as that of Dell’s, where metal particles in the battery cell had come into contact with other parts of the battery cell, leading to a short circuit within the cell.

Sony estimated that the combined recall could cost it as much as US$250million, however, analysts have put the figure at between US$200million and US$300million for the Dell recall alone.

“We are working closely with both companies to ensure consumer safety regarding this matter. We currently estimate that the overall cost to Sony of supporting the recent recalls by Apple and Dell will range somewhere between 20 billion yen [US$171million] and 30 billion yen [US$256million],” Sony said in a statement to IT Weekly.

“This estimate, includes, but is not limited to, costs associated with providing replacement battery packs,” it added.

News of Apple’s recall and that the US Consumer Product Safety Commission has launched an investigation into all products using Sony batteries has sparked speculation that other vendors could follow suit.

The Japanese firm’s customers include the likes of HP, Toshiba, Lenovo and Sony itself, but the vendor claimed it “anticipates no further recalls of battery packs using these particular battery cells”.

As far as its own laptops are concerned, Sony said a selected number of Vaio PCs sold in limited quantities utilised the same type of battery, but there was “no danger” of them overheating and said it was not aware of any incidents related to these products.

“While the potential for overheating can be affected by variations in PC system configurations, we do not believe that Vaio PCs have this potential as Vaio utilises a different battery configuration and also adopts its own design for safety technology,” Sony said in its statement.

HP said it did not use Sony battery packs in its notebook products and it had also worked closely with Sony to verify that the battery cells used in HP notebooks were not affected by the recalls.

Both Toshiba and Lenovo stated that they were not affected by the same fault that had caused the recent recalls.

The move follows an earlier alert by Apple, which saw the vendor recall thousands of batteries for its 15-inch MacBook Pro notebooks; it claimed these did not pose a safety risk.

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