The New York Times says it's the largest safety recall in the history of consumer electronics. The Wall Street Journal says it's the largest computer-related recall ever issued under the Consumer Product Safety Commission. More than four million Sony-manufactured batteries inserted into Dell laptops sold between April 2004 and July 2006 are being recalled because they pose an unacceptable risk of ... um ... catching fire. The recall follows six documented instances in which batteries in Dell laptops overheated, "resulting in property damage to furniture and personal effects." Detailed information about precisely which models may be affected, and precisely which batteries found in those models have proven troublesome, has been posted here on Dell's Web site.
The announcement follows a splashy page-one story in the Aug. 14 Wall Street Journal about rising anxiety among airline regulators about lithium and lithium-ion batteries for laptops, portable DVD players, digital cameras, and all sorts of other electronic equipment manufactured by Dell and others. Since 2003, the CPSC has logged 339 incidents in which the batteries have overheated, emitted smoke and fumes, or exploded. Fortunately, no serious injuries or deaths have occurred thus far.
Sounds like kind of a big deal, doesn't it? But if you went to Dell's home page the morning the Dell battery recall story was featured prominently in newspapers around the country—remember, Dell sells its products exclusively via the Web—you could be forgiven for not being able to find any mention of this little battery problem. It's there, waaaay down on the left, and I've highlighted it in yellow, below. The corporate voce doesn't get more sotto than this.
[Update, Aug. 16: Dell has now made its link to information about the battery recall slightly more conspicuous.]
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