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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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What ever happened to Business Ethics?
By S3anister on 10/5/2006 11:47:37 AM , Rating: 2
Dell should have atleast suspected that the other sony batteries were bad, and recalled/inspected them before they got into the public.

RE: What ever happened to Business Ethics?
By stubeck on 10/5/2006 12:00:35 PM , Rating: 2
What are you talking about? All businesses will go through the exact same process Dell went through. They try and find out what the problem is, how much it would cost to recall versus just fixing the specific issues and go from there. The only reason Dell is getting so much flack is because they're Dell and they were the first. Everyone else who went after them should be getting the flack for taking so long to do it.

RE: What ever happened to Business Ethics?
By INeedCache on 10/5/2006 2:55:47 PM , Rating: 2
No, the reason they are taking so much flak is because it took them so long not only after they knew about the bad batteries, but after the bad publicity they toook from it. The bad publicity and potential for lawsuits was growing rapidly, and that's why they recalled. Not all businesses go through the same process, some have a bit more of conscience than most and recall fairly quickly. In this case it was Dell's computers that were exploding and pictures of their computers online and in papers. They didn't exactly recall immediately after the first incident. They deserve some flak, like it or not.

By mindless1 on 10/5/2006 7:04:16 PM , Rating: 2
The reason they're taking so much flak is Sony's claim this was partially Dell's fault. In retrospect we see this is untrue, that SONY CHOSE to try to limit the recall by not being forthright about the #s of cells with this problem.

Dell cannot second-guess Sony unless they recall samples form every possible lot, (if Dell even had this lot information) and send them off to a lab for examination. If instead there were significant numbers of other lots, oroducts exhibiting the problem, eventually Dell accumulates enough info to be statistically significant and can initiate a recall on their own, on their own dime- but it doesn't address the more important issue of a comprehensive recall of all contaminated cells.

"Nowadays you can buy a CPU cheaper than the CPU fan." -- Unnamed AMD executive
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