Hewlett-Packard To Pay Penalty Over Faulty Lithium-Ion Batteries

Hewlett-Packard must pay a penalty for failing to report faulty lithium-ion batteries, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) just announced. The Hewlett-Packard Company, Palo Alto, California, agreed to pay a civil penalty of $425,000. The Commission provisionally accepted the settlement agreement in a 3-to-2 vote.

The settlement resolves staff allegations that Hewlett-Packard knowingly failed to immediately report to the Commission, as federally mandated, that certain lithium-ion battery packs contained a defect or created an unreasonable risk of serious injury or death. Federal law mandates that manufacturers, distributors, and retailers immediately report to the CPSC—within 24 hours—after obtaining information reasonably supporting the conclusion that a product contains a defect which could create a substantial product hazard or an unreasonable risk of serious injury or death, or which fails to comply with any consumer product safety rule or any other CPSC-enforced rule, regulation, standard, or ban.

The lithium-ion battery packs can overheat, which poses a fire and burn hazard to consumers. The Hewlett-Packard battery packs were shipped with new HP Notebook computers, sold as accessories, or provided as spare parts for various HP models.

CPSC staff alleges that, by September 2007, Hewlett-Packard knew of about 22 incidents linked to the lithium-ion battery packs and that at least two incidents resulted in consumer injuries. The staff also alleges that Hewlett-Packard also was aware that at least one consumer apparently required hospitalization; Hewlett-Packard did not receive any information on the consumer’s injuries or treatment, if any.

CPSC staff also alleges that between March 2007 and April 2007, Hewlett-Packard conducted a study, from which it obtained additional information about the lithium-ion battery packs.

Hewlett-Packard did not notify the CPSC about the incidents or the study until July 25, 2008, at which time, CPSC staff alleges Hewlett-Packard was aware of at least 31 incidents involving the lithium-ion battery packs.

In October 2008, Hewlett-Packard and the Commission announced a recall of about 32,000 lithium-ion battery packs. The recall notice can be accessed at: http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/prerel/prhtml09/09035.html.

Hewlett-Packard and computer and electronics stores, nationwide, sold notebook computers for $700 – $3,000 that contained the recalled lithium-ion battery packs, as did and various Internet retailers. Also, lithium-ion battery packs that were sold separately for use with the notebook computers retailed for between $100 and $160.

In agreeing to the settlement, Hewlett-Packard denies CPSC staff allegations that the lithium-ion battery packs—or the notebooks in which the packs were used—could create an unreasonable risk of serious injury or death, or that Hewlett-Packard violated the reporting requirements of the Consumer Product Safety Act.

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