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Dell first learned of "contaminates that create an internal short circuit" in 2005

CRN is reporting that Dell first identified the cause of the failures in Sony manufactured batteries late last year. At the time, however, Dell believed that the faulty batteries were in a small sample of notebooks and decided to recall only 22,000 units.

In letters obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, the line of communication between Richard Stern, acting associate director of the CPSC and John Hodges, a lawyer for Dell, is brought to light:

"Thank you for your full report of November 10, 2005. ... In your report, submitted on behalf of Dell Inc. ... you indicated that some lithium-ion battery cells manufactured for Dell could contain contaminates that create an internal short circuit. An internal short circuit could result in excessive heat, smoke or flames in the battery pack and possibly beyond, creating risk of thermal burn," wrote Stern.

As we all now know, that isn't the last we heard from Dell on the battery recall front. In mid-August, the company recalled an additional 4.1 million notebooks batteries manufactured by Sony that were stricken with the same problem.

A spokesman for Dell recently tried to clarify why the problem with the batteries, which was correctly identified in November of 2005, was not fully rectified until August of 2006:

"The failure mechanism itself was different enough in December to what we saw in the last several weeks [before the August recall]. We diagnosed it [last year]. There was a trend. We really felt like we pinpointed it in December and went on with our lives, so to speak. That's part of what you could assume would be driving the scope of the recall back then. That's sort of an indication that, with Sony's insistence and our conversations with them, they were able to pinpoint ... a population to be isolated that we could diagnose and feel highly confident it was limited to that population of 22,000 units," said Dell spokesman Ira William.

As reported last week, Dell has recently expanded its recall to include a total of 4.2 million units. It was also reported yesterday that Sony was instituting a Global Replacement Program to help notebook manufacturers and customers with the battery recall.





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