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Dell recalls notebook power adapter cords

The adapter on about 38,000 Dell notebooks can produce shocking results if used with the wrong power cord.

Dell and Mobility Electronics are offering to replace the power adapter cords on about 38,000 Dell notebooks to avoid potential electrical shocks for their owners.

The Round Rock, Texas-based PC maker has begun contacting customers who purchased its Dell Combination Auto/Air Power Adapter, offered as an accessory for Dell Inspiron and Latitude notebooks. Dell began selling the adapter, which can work in a car or on a plane, in January for between $90 and $110.

Although there have not been any reports of problems with the adapter, lab tests showed that it could produce an electrical shock if used with any cord other than the one it is packaged with from the factory, according to representatives at Dell and the adapter's manufacturer, Mobility Electronics.

Dell on Thursday began offering customers who purchased the adapter an update kit that includes a replacement cord and device that creates a special keyway that prevents other cords from being used, thus eliminating the potential shock hazard, a Dell representative said.

The companies are also working with the United States' Consumer Product Safety Commission on its campaign to remedy the potential hazard.

But Mobility Electronics manufactures the Dell Combination Auto/Air Power Adapter exclusively for Dell, so the replacement program is limited only to those customers who purchased it from Dell. Dell sold about 38,000 of the adapters worldwide. Approximately 28,000 of the adapters were sold in the United States, the Dell representative said.

Meanwhile, Dell has halted sales of the adapter while Mobility Electronics retrofits the adapters in inventory at various Dell distribution hubs and changes the design of the adapter. Production on the redesigned adapter is expected to begin later this quarter.

Given the number of units companies such as Dell ship every year, recalls or replacement programs are fairly rare. However, notebook power adapters have seen their share of problems over the years, including a recall of 1.4 million of the adapters by Compaq in 2001.

Dell customers in the United States who seek additional information on the adapters can also call the company at (888) 245-3844, the representative said.