Dude, where's my battery?

Summary:If you're one of the millions of people who have bought Dell notebooks over the past few years, I've got some bad news for you - this battery recall is going to cost you time and/or money. And the more you bought, the more it's going to cost you.

If you're one of the millions of people who have bought Dell notebooks over the past few years, I've got some bad news for you - this battery recall is going to cost you time and/or I don't see how any company is going to be able to leave it up to employees to check their notebooks, given the potential liability of a notebook going nuclear on someone's lap or on a planemoney.  And the more you bought, the more it's going to cost you.

By now every Dell notebook owner should know that Dell is recalling 4.1 million notebook batteries manufactured by Sony, amid fears that they could go up in flames.  This 4.1 million accounts for about 14% of the 24.9 million batteries sold between April 2004 and July 21, 2006.  No matter how you cut it, that's a lot of batteries!

Now Dell has made it clear that this recall isn't going to affect their bottom line for this period, and from that we can assume that Sony will be footing the $300 - $400 million bill for this battery exchange.  OK, so Dell's in the clear, but who's compensating the customer?  If you own one Dell notebook then it's going to take you a few minutes to pop the battery out of your system, jot down the serial number and check to see if your battery is a potential incendiary device or not.  If your battery is a dud that has to go back to Dell, then you have to live without your battery for around 20 days while you wait for a replacement.

OK, now scale this up.  What if you, your company or organization has 100 Dell notebooks?  1,000? 10,000?  100,000? 

Suddenly this becomes a huge task.  Someone needs to identify batteries that have been recalled, organize for them to be sent back to Dell[Updated: August 17, 2006 @ 11:17 am], make sure that replacements are received for each recalled battery and that the right battery is then matched up to the right notebook.  That's a lot of work.  It's also serious work.  An organization or company will need to identify every single battery that's been recalled and make sure that it is replaced, period.  There can be no shortcuts with a safety recall like this.  To be honest, I don't see how any company is going to be able to leave it up to employees to check their notebooks, given the potential liability of a notebook going nuclear on someone's lap or on a plane (six months from now, someone else could be using that notebook).  The bottom line is that someone will have to audit every single Dell notebook that a company owns. 

Also, what about down-time?  If you have one notebook that you rely on and the battery is recalled, no problems, go out and buy a replacement battery.  But buying 10,000 replacement batteries is a pretty big deal. 

It's clear that Dell has made sure that the cost of this recall is passed on, but the problem is that a significant part of that cost (certainly with respect to time) has been passed on to the owners.  The cost to companies (both in administration and downtime) could mount up to a significant sum.  And if this recall extends beyond Dell notebooks, then this could become a very serious issue indeed.

For details of which batteries are affected, see this post or go to the Dell Battery Return Program website.

Topics: Laptops

About

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes is an internationally published technology author who has devoted over a decade to helping users get the most from technology -- whether that be by learning to program, building a PC from a pile of parts, or helping them get the most from their new MP3 player or digital camera.Adrian has authored/co-authored technic... Full Bio

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