Dell Customers: Battery Recall No Big Deal?

By Baselinemag  |  Posted 2006-08-18 Print this article Print

Some say the company did a good job of handling the recall of 4.1 million laptop batteries that presented a risk of catching fire. But others face a big logistics problem—like the U.S. Army, which must replace batteries for 150,000 Dell computers aro

Dell this week recalled 4.1 million laptop PC batteries, considered the biggest product-safety recall ever in the computer industry, because they presented a risk of catching on fire.

Some Dell customers say the company did a good job of handling the recall, and that they expect to be only minimally inconvenienced.

"I was very impressed with how well Dell handled the situation," says Chris Cahalin, network manager at Papa Gino's, a pizza chain based in Dedham, Mass.

Cahalin says he received notification of the recall the night of Aug. 14 and "had an opportunity to advise my team how to handle this." He says Dell provided him simple, detailed instructions on how to return affected batteries. Cahalin was expecting to receive replacement batteries for several machines within 20 days; he says he had already received four by Friday, Aug. 18.

"I was expecting the worst and was pleasantly surprised by how much preparation Dell had done in order to make this as simple as possible and how very few [of our laptops] were impacted," he says.

Meanwhile, Ed Klein, CIO of Royal Resorts, says that of the Mexico-based resort operator's 35 Dell notebooks, so far only one that requires battery replacement. "For us, it is not a big deal, and Dell is handling it well," he says.

But others are facing logistics problems in light of the massive recall. The U.S. Army, for example, will have to replace batteries for 150,000 Dell computers around the globe, according to a report in Federal Computer Week. Representatives of the Army's Enterprise Information Systems unit did not respond to Baseline's requests for more information.

In addition, the U.S. Navy has at least 45,000 Dell laptops with faulty batteries, according to EDS, which is under contract to supply information-technology services and equipment to the Navy.

Dell spokeswoman Anne Camden says getting replacement batteries to customers is "a matter of supplying the demand in an efficient, balanced and reasonable manner across our customer spectrum. We are meeting their needs with the supply of new batteries as quickly as we can." She declined to provide details on how Dell is assisting any particular customer.

Dell, in conjunction with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, on Aug. 14 announced that it was voluntarily recalling 4.1 million Dell-branded lithium-ion batteries, which were made with cells manufactured by Sony. The company said about 2.7 million battery packs were sold in the U.S. and an additional 1.4 million were sold overseas.

Dell took the action after several incidents were reported in which laptop batteries overheated and subsequently burst into flames (see Are Red-Hot Laptops a Burning Problem?).

The batteries were sold between April 1, 2004, and July 18, 2006, with a variety of Dell notebook models, including those in its Latitude, Inspiron, XPS and Precision Mobile Workstation line. Information on the battery recall program is available at www.dellbatteryprogram.com.

Separately, Dell on Thursday reported earnings for the second quarter of 2006. The company reported a 51% drop in net income, to $502 million, from $1.0 billion in the same period a year prior. Revenue increased 5%, to $14.1 billion. The company had issued a warning in July that earnings would miss expectations.

Dell also disclosed that its accounting practices are the subject of an "informal" Securities and Exchange Commission investigation, but the company noted the investigation does not concern stock-option grants.


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