Two major laptop manufacturers, Apple Inc. and Dell Inc., are recalling millions of notebook battery packs. The battery packs, which were produced by Sony between April 2004 and June 2006, can overheat and pose a fire risk.
The battery recall is the largest ever in the consumer electronics industry, affecting 1.1 million Apple notebook batteries and 4.1 million Dell laptops. This crisis also affects many Mills students.
Molly Nelson, owner of an iBook G4 – one of the two Apple models affected, the other being the Powerbook G4 – felt outraged when she discovered that her computer is potentially dangerous.
“Apple is taking advantage of its trendiness,” says Nelson. “But the truth is, if my computer combusts and burns my flesh, its trendy factor goes down to zero.”
Freshwomen Sonya Rifkin and Elizabeth Serage agree. “My computer is brand new, and the fact that it needs a new part just shows that Mac is making lesser-quality, disposable technology,” stated Rifkin.
“This is my first negative experience with Mac,” adds Serage. “And I’m surprised that Apple is not taking care of its customers and making sure the word is out there, that people know, and taking better care of the whole situation in general.”
Apple customers are not the only ones affected on the Mills campus. Natasha Tractenberg, a Dell user, was researching online when she heard about Dell’s battery recall. At that moment, Tractenberg’s laptop was resting on her lap. Nervously removing it, she logged on to Dell’s battery program Web site (www.dellbatteryprogram.com) to check if her battery was part of the recall. After entering her mailing and e-mail address, she was issued a shipping order for a free replacement, but the freshwoman was miffed to find out it would take 20 business days for the delivery.
Tractenberg, in the meantime, will have to do all her computing at the desk while her computer is plugged into the wall. “Do I really think the thing is going to explode on me?” asks Tractenberg. “The odds are no. But when I’m living next to and working with my computer, I have to take every precaution.”
Both Apple and Dell consumers with affected products should stop using the recalled batteries immediately and contact the manufacturer for a replacement battery, free of charge. Consumers should remove the batteries from their notebooks and use the AC adapter to power their computers.
Notebook batteries and power supplies are among the most frequently recalled computer products due to manufacturing errors. Hewlett-Packard Co., for example, announced a recall of 135,000 battery packs worldwide in October 2005.
Sony said its recent recalls will cost the company between $172 million and $258 million.
According to analyst estimations, the recall will increase Dell’s production, shipping and marketing expenses by $200 million. Dell and Apple spokespeople both claim that the returns are unlikely to have a material effect on earning at the companies. Still, as Nelson points out, “The recall is a setback for both companies’ reputations, especially as demand decreases for Dell products in the face of stiff Apple competition.”
Apple can be contacted at 1-800-275-2273 between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Central Standard Time during business days, or customers can log on to https://support.apple.com/batteryprogram