Computer company Dell is recalling 4.1 million laptop computer batteries because they could burst into flames.
It said that in rare circumstances the Sony-made batteries could short-circuit and overheat. There have been about six reported cases of fires or smoking laptops in the United States.
More than a million of the batteries are thought to have been sold outside the US – some of them in the UK – between April 2004 and July 2006.
They were sold either separately or with Dell Latitude, Inspiron, XPS or Precision Mobile Workstation laptop computers.
The words Dell and ‘Made in Japan’, ‘Made in China’ or ‘Battery cell made in Japan, Assembled in China’ are printed on the back of the batteries.
A Sony spokesman said the two companies had studied problems with the battery packs for more than a month, after getting reports of fires or smoking laptops in the US.
Customers can see on Dell’s recall website if their batteries are affected by checking the battery identification number, which appears on a white sticker on the product.
Customers whose battery identification numbers match those being recalled will be automatically connected to a replacement order form.
Affected battery packs should be returned to Dell for disposal and the company will supply free replacement batteries to affected customers.
Dell says that customers can continue to use the affected notebook computers safely by turning them off, ejecting the battery and switching to the mains adapter until they get a replacement battery.
Dell recalled 22,000 laptop batteries in December 2005 because of a potential fire risk, and in 2001 it recalled 284,000 batteries for the same reason.
Computing Which? Senior Researcher Kim Gilmour said: ‘Our surveys show that Dell are one of the most reliable brands out there, but this type of incident could harm Dell’s image badly. Dell did react quickly but it could have reacted faster. It took the company several weeks to issue this mass recall of batteries.’