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Dell Recalls Millions of Laptop Batteries

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

The computer business is heating up just a little too much.

Dell Computers says it is recalling 4.1 million batteries used in laptop computers. It is the largest electronics related recall involving the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

NPR's Jim Zarroli reports.

JIM ZARROLI reporting:

Dell said it would voluntarily recall some of the lithium ion batteries used in its Latitude and Precision notebook computers and sold between April 2004 and last month. The batteries are manufactured by Sony, under the Dell brand name.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has documented 339 cases of lithium ion batteries overheating. The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that a laptop had even caught fire while stored in an overhead bin on a plane traveling from Chicago to Munich, leading passengers to suspect a terrorist attack was taking place.

In announcing the recall, Dell said instances of overheating were extremely rare. The company said it had documented just six cases of its laptops catching fire. None of the fires resulted in injuries to people.

Ira Williams is a Dell spokesman.

Mr. IRA WILLIAMS (Spokesman for Dell): There were a couple of incidents that were announced, and essentially we respond to those in the way that we do any sort of, very serious, safety issue like that. And our steps are essentially to capture those units and study them and analyze them.

ZARROLI: Williams said the company has set up a Web site, www.dellbatteryprogram.com where notebook users can go to find out if their computers are affected by the recall. If they are, they can send the batteries back to Dell to be replaced.

The same battery cell recalled by Dell is also used by other computer makers. Apple said yesterday, it was investigating the batteries used in its current and former notebook lines to see if they meet safety standards.

Dell said it did not expect the recall to have any adverse effect on its financial position or cash flow. The company, which is the largest personal computer maker in the world, is to report financial results for the second quarter of 2006 this week.

Jim Zarroli, NPR News, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jim Zarroli is an NPR correspondent based in New York. He covers economics and business news.