Gateway recalls 14,000 notebook batteries

Battery cells made by Samsung are the culprit in this most recent incident of overheating laptops

Gateway is recalling 14,000 batteries used in its notebook PCs after four customers reported that their computers had overheated, a similar condition to the massive battery recall that swept the industry in 2006.

Dell, Apple, Lenovo, and other vendors recalled more than 8 million batteries made by Sony when customers began complaining that the rechargeable lithium-ion cells could overheat and catch fire after being dropped. Gateway recalled 35,000 batteries in that episode, beginning in October 2006.

However, the new recall affects battery cells made by Samsung and assembled into battery packs by Simplo Technology, of Taiwan, Gateway spokeswoman Lisa Emard said on Tuesday.

Gateway, the third-largest PC vendor in the United States, expects both vendors to help cover the cost of the action.

"We're working with our suppliers to cover the cost of replacement battery packs and other direct costs. We expect our costs to be limited to incidental expenses associated with administering the exchange program," Emard said.

Simplo and Samsung did not return calls for comment.

Even when they offer free replacement batteries, PC vendors face a challenge in persuading laptop users to participate in recalls. Earlier Tuesday, Toshiba launched a campaign to remind laptop users to return Sony batteries, after one user's computer burst into flames eight months after the previous recall began.

Gateway expects better results from this recall since all the PCs were purchased through direct channels, either over Gateway's Web site and phone lines or through professional direct sales, Emard said. That means Gateway still has the buyers' addresses, and plans to contact them with news of the exchange program.

The recall affects certain Gateway 400VTX and 450ROG series notebooks sold between May 2003 and August 2003, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. The faulty batteries are identified by part numbers 6500760 or 6500761 and say "made by SMP" on a label pasted on the underside of the battery pack.

"The root cause of this failure becomes apparent as the batteries age and perform repetitive charging cycles," Emard said. Of the four customer complaints, one had caused minor property damage while the others simply overheated, she said.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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