Dell Recalls 4.1 Million Notebook Batteries

This week, Dell, the world's number-one PC maker, said that it would recall 4.1 million notebook computer batteries because of a production flaw that could result in sudden fires. The recall comes in the wake of some high-profile events in which Dell customers saw their notebook computers burst into flames.

"We feel we have determined what the problem is and that problem has been corrected," a Dell spokesperson said. "Considering the volumes of lithium-ion batteries used in the world today, not just in notebook computers, the incidents involving some kind of overheating are really quite rare. We certainly have our customer safety at the front of our concerns."

The recall affects a wide variety of Dell Inspiron, Latitude, Precision, and XPS notebook computers that Dell shipped to customers between April 1, 2004, and July 18, 2006. Dell has provided a complete list of the battery models and asks that only customers with affected batteries contact the company about this problem. (See the link below for a full list.) Dell says Sony made all the problematic batteries in either China or Japan.

The recall is one of the largest safety recalls in the history of consumer electronics and is a major misstep for Dell, which has struggled to maintain its lofty position atop the PC industry while keeping costs low. But the recall could have further-reaching implications for all notebook makers and users: The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recently investigated the safety of the lithium-ion batteries used in notebook computers after a battery being shipped by air caught fire, causing the aircraft to make an emergency landing. Meanwhile, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has documented several incidents of overheating notebook batteries, and recent high-profile incidents involving machines sold by other companies, such as Apple Computer and HP, have been reported online.

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