Apple, Sony take hit in Japan over faulty laptop batteries

Kenji Hall

For the second time in less than a week, Japanese authorities want answers about overheating laptop batteries. This time, it's Apple Computer in the hot seat. The Ministry of Economic Trade and Industry (Japanese only) has ordered Apple to investigate how a faulty Sony lithium-ion battery might have caused an iBook G4 to overheat and catch fire in Osaka.

Apple says the owner of the iBook G4 suffered minor burns, and that there was only one incident reported. The company has until Sept. 5 to report back to the ministry with production details about the laptops as well as plans to prevent a recurrence, or it could face a fine of $2,500.

The ministry said on Aug. 24 that there were two cases of smoldering batteries in Dell laptops last year. Nobody was injured.

Sony has taken its fair share of lumps lately, too. Authorities are looking into whether more laptops from other manufacturers with Sony-made lithium-ion batteries were affected. The Dell and Apple recalls combined amount to 7.7 million Sony batteries. Sony says the damage to earnings is likely to be in the range of $170 million to $260 million, and investors, worried about the possibility of more recalls, have sent Sony's shares down by more than 6% since the Dell recall first surfaced in the U.S. in early August.

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