Sony's battery business under DOJ investigation

The company has revealed that the federal government started an antitrust probe into the competitive practices of the rechargeable-battery industry in May. Sony says it is cooperating with the Justice Department.

Sony has come under investigation as part of a wider probe by the U.S. Department of Justice into the competitive practices of the rechargeable-battery industry, the company revealed in a financial filing today.

Sony Electronics was first contacted in May with a subpoena from the Justice Department's Antitrust Division. A company spokesman told Bloomberg Sony is cooperating with the probe.

"Sony understands that the DOJ is investigating competition in the secondary batteries market. Based on the stage of the proceeding, it is not possible to estimate the amount of loss or range of possible loss, if any, that might result from adverse judgments, settlements or other resolution of this matter," the company said in its 2011 annual report filed with the SEC today.

Sony is one of the world's major manufacturers of lithium ion batteries, along with Samsung, Panasonic, and LG. The batteries are used mainly in consumer electronic devices like laptops and smartphones, and electric vehicles. It's possible the investigation by the Justice Department is related to a price war that took place last year when an oversupply of batteries was clogging up the world market.

Sony's lithium ion batteries were last in the news when they were involved in two separate recalls, first in 2006 and again in 2008. Batteries that were later determined to be faulty were overheating and in some cases catching fire in laptops.

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