Apple recalls 1.8 million laptop batteries


Apple Computer Inc. is recalling 1.8 million lithium-ion laptop batteries, following incidents where nine of its notebooks overheated causing minor burns in two users.

This recall is the second-biggest in U.S. history involving electronics or computers. It comes barely a week after a similar recall of 4.1 million lithium-ion batteries by top PC maker Dell Inc. in Austin, Texas.

In the case of Cupertino, California-based Apple, the recall – made in “voluntary cooperation” with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (UCPSC) covers 1.1 million batteries sold with notebooks in the U.S. and 700,000 abroad. These lithium-ion batteries – with cells manufactured by Sony Energy Devices Corp. of Japan – were used with the 12-inch iBook G4, 12-inch PowerBook G4 and 15-inch PowerBook G4, the UCPSC Web site said.

The notebooks were purchased through Apple’s online store, Apple retail stores, and Apple authorized resellers from October 2003 through August 2006.

The UCPSC has called upon consumers to stop using the recalled products immediately, unless otherwise instructed, and to contact Apple for a replacement battery that will be made available free of charge.

These lithium-ion batteries can overheat, posing a fire hazard to consumers, the consumer body warns. “Apple has received nine reports of batteries overheating, including two reports of minor burns from handling overheated computers and other reports of minor property damage. No serious injuries were reported.”

Consumers have been directed to remove the battery from the computer to view the model and serial numbers labeled on the bottom of the unit. “After removing the recalled battery from their iBook or PowerBook, consumers should plug in the AC adapter to power the computer until a replacement battery arrives,” the UCPSC said.

Users in North America can contact Apple (800) 275-2273 between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Central Time Monday through Sunday or log on to Apple’s Web site to check the battery’s serial number and request a replacement battery.

Meanwhile, hard on the heels of last week’s Dell battery recall, at least one airline has placed restrictions on the use of Dell laptops. Australia’s Qantas Airways Ltd. is telling passengers with Dell laptops that they might not be able to recharge their machines in-flight.

Dell’s recall of 4.1 million laptop computer batteries was in response to several reports the company received of laptops bursting into flames while being charged. Dell tracked the source of the problem to faulty batteries supplied by Sony Corp.

Qantas said laptops with batteries subject to the recall and that have not yet been replaced can be used on flights, but only on battery power or through the onboard power supply with the batteries removed.

Sony said the problem is related to metallic particles in a critical area of the battery cell but that the risk of explosion depends on system configuration. Last week it said its own Vaio laptops were not at risk.

On Thursday, Sony said it is investigating a report from the U.S. that a 4-year old Sony Vaio computer burst into flames while charging. The computer apparently caught fire on Wednesday morning and firefighters were called to a residence in Kansas City, according to KMBC-TV.

–With files from IDGNS


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