Gateway has recalled 14,000 batteries used in its laptops. Gateway recalled the notebook batteries after four customers reported that their computers had overheated. The move by Gateway brings with it echoes of the massive battery recall that swept the industry in 2006.
Last year Dell, Apple and dozens of other vendors recalled more than 8 million laptop batteries made by Sony. The recalls occurred after customers found that the rechargeable lithium-ion cells could overheat and catch fire after being dropped. Gateway recalled 35,000 batteries, beginning in October 2006.
This week's recall affects battery cells made by Samsung. The affected cells were assembled into battery packs by Simplo of Taiwan, Gateway spokeswoman Lisa Emard said yesterday.
Gateway, the third-largest PC vendor in the US, expects both Samsung and Simplo 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 yesterday, 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 website 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 US 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.