Fujitsu battery recall to affect 287,000 notebooks

The batteries, like those recalled by other vendors, were made by Sony

Fujitsu Ltd.'s recall of defective batteries will affect 287,000 notebook PCs, including 63,000 in Japan, the company said today.

Fujitsu last week became the fifth PC vendor in recent weeks to recall batteries using lithium-ion cells made by Sony Energy Devices Corp. A manufacturing defect can cause those cells to short-circuit and then overheat and in some cases catch fire.

So Fujitsu has asked both users of certain notebook PCs and dealers with unsold computers in their inventory to return the affected batteries, said Sean Nemoto, investor relations manager at Fujitsu.

Dell Inc. started the rush when it announced on Aug. 14 it would recall 4.1 million batteries, following complaints from a handful of customers who said that their PCs had burst into flames. Other vendors quickly followed, including Apple Computer Inc., Toshiba Corp., Lenovo Group Ltd., IBM and Fujitsu. Together they have recalled 7.9 million batteries.

Sony has been pushing vendors to recall its batteries even in the absence of customer complaints. Sony said last week that it is working with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to recall any remaining defective cells in laptops worldwide. The move will not affect other types of consumer electronics that use lithium-ion cells, such as cameras and music players.

Laptop vendors insist that the number of actual fires is very small, amounting to just a fraction of a percent of the number of batteries recalled. The Consumer Product Safety Commission has counted 47 incidents of smoke or fire coming from laptops between January 2001 and August 2006.

Sony and the vendors continue to debate whether the fault lies solely in battery cell manufacturing or also in the design of notebook PCs. Sony designs its batteries to shut down after they short-circuit, but in certain situations they will continue to overheat.

"The potential for this to occur can be affected by variations in the system configurations found in different notebook computers," the company said.

Hewlett-Packard Co. said Monday that its customers had not experienced any overheated batteries, thanks to redundant safety features used in HP notebooks. "Because of HP's PC system configuration, HP notebooks using Sony battery cells are not prone to overheating issues that have recently been observed," HP and Sony said in a joint statement.

However, other vendors insist their designs are also safe. Dell's recall is careful to state that "only the described batteries are subject to this recall and not the notebook computers themselves." 

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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