U.S. agency reviewing all Sony laptop batteries

Consumer Product Safety Commission to inspect lithium ion batteries after massive Dell recall over fire hazards.

U.S. consumer safety officials said on Tuesday that they are reviewing all Sony-made lithium ion batteries in laptop computers for fire hazards after Dell announced the largest electronics recall in the United States.

Dell, the No. 1 maker of personal computers, on Monday said it is recalling 4.1 million notebook batteries made by Sony because they could overheat and catch fire. A battery of the type involved in the recall was in a Dell in Japan earlier this year.

The Sony batteries are also used in laptops from Hewlett-Packard, Apple Computer and Lenovo.

"We are looking at the complete scope of the batteries made by Sony to ensure that no other consumers are in harm's way," U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission spokesman Scott Wolfson said. "We recognize that the batteries manufactured by Sony are not unique to just the Dell notebook computers."

Such batteries are also used in a wide array of gadgets including cell phones, digital cameras, camcorders and music players, and Wolfson added that the safety commission is encouraging companies and consumers to report potential defects in other devices using the battery cells but that the current focus is on laptops.

, the president of market researcher Endpoint Technologies Associates. "If they have the Sony cell, specifically the cell made between April 2004 and June 2006, they have the problem."

He estimated that the recall could cost $200 million to $300 million, depending on how many customers participate.

Dell said it expects no "material" financial impact from the recall, while Sony said its cost from the recall has not yet been determined.

A Sony representative in Tokyo said on Tuesday that the overheating problem is believed to be specific to batteries supplied to Dell, but recall decisions are up to each maker.

Hewlett-Packard, the world's No. 2 PC maker, said it was not affected by recall. "It's a Dell issue," spokesman Ryan Donovan said.

Apple Computer on Monday said it was looking into the matter.

A spokesman for Lenovo, the third-largest PC maker by market share, said the company was not recalling any batteries "at this time."

"While no make or model of battery is 100 percent immune from failures or overheating, to date, we have not seen any unusual pattern of problems in our notebooks," spokesman Bob Page said.

as its image takes a beating, Cindy Shaw, an analyst at Moors & Cabot, said in a research note.

"We also believe recall news could sway consumer purchase decisions away from Dell as back-to-school season gets under way ahead of the important holiday season," wrote Shaw, who has a "sell" rating on Dell shares.

The recall comes as Dell is investing $100 million and hiring 2,000 people this year to improve customer service after it was hit with complaints of inferior after-sales service.

Dell said consumers who bought its notebooks in the recall period should remove the batteries and contact Dell for a replacement. Customers can continue using an AC adapter and power cord with the computers, Dell said.

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