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November 03, 2008

Sony Recalls Notebook Batteries Amidst Reports of Fire Hazard

By Susan J. Campbell, TMCnet Contributing Editor

Many of us in our fast-paced society, have come to rely on our laptop and notebook computers as it provides a way for us to have access to the computing functions and information we need, no matter where we are.
While this capability is in great demand – noted in the rapidly increasing market for smartphones – it becomes somewhat hindered when this technology could actually be a risk. Who would have thought that simply using such a portable device could involve the potential for fire?

Walaika Haskins reported Friday in TechNewsWorld that Sony has issued a recall for roughly 100,000 notebook batteries. Affecting laptop users throughout the world, this recall was conducted in partnership with the U.S. Consumer Product and Safety Commission (USCPSC).

The recall is based on the possibility that the lithium-ion batteries could overheat and pose a fire and burn hazard to users. There have been, in fact, 19 reports of batteries overheating, 17 of which included the report of flames or fire. Two consumers were documented as receiving minor burns.

Such a recall is not new territory for Sony or really any laptop manufacturer. Sony itself instigated massive battery recalls that began in 2006 when roughly 9.6 million Sony laptop batteries had to be returned. Other manufacturers, including Dell and HP have also had to issue recalls for battery issues.

David Daoud, and IDC (News - Alert) analyst, told TechNewsWorld: "Batteries have always been a tough area of systems, given power and heat issues. "Battery makers have not really been under pressure enough to address the quality problem, but we will see growing pressure on them. But in the meanwhile, and until we have proven technology, I don't rule out more incidents to come."

In the event of a faulty battery, the USCPSC advises that consumers immediately remove them from their notebook computers and contact center computer manufacturer to determine whether the battery is included in the recall. If it is, the consumer can request a free replacement.

In the case of the Sony batteries, the electronics giant claims they are a result of changes made in its factories some four years ago. The company lost roughly $360 million in the previous round of recalls. It also stood to lose consumer confidence, whether the problem was a result of in-house problems or an outside manufacturer.

According to Daoud, "We have already seen that with laptops catching on fire and shown on TV. That certainly undermines consumer perception of the companies that are involved, and Sony in particular has been in the news quite a bit. Certainly, in Sony's case, there is an urgent [need] to fix the battery problem once and for all.”

Susan J. Campbell is a contributing editor for TMCnet and has also written for eastbiz.com. To read more of Susan's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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