• Kyodo News


Toshiba Corp. is considering seeking compensation from Sony Corp. for harm inflicted on its laptop computer business by having to recall Sony-made lithium-ion batteries installed on its laptops, Toshiba officials said Monday.

Similar moves are being studied by other electronics makers, including Fujitsu Ltd. and Hitachi Ltd., that have recalled products using the Sony batteries.

Although Sony is expected to shoulder costs associated with Toshiba’s recall of 830,000 batteries made by Sony, the company is considering asking Sony to also compensate it for declines in sales and impairment of the brand image of its laptops, the officials said.

Large Japanese manufacturers rarely demand that other major companies make up for product failures by means of monetary compensation. Toshiba appears to be considering the step partly because shareholders are now keeping a closer eye on corporate management, industry observers said.

The Toshiba officials said the company will later work out a specific sum it will demand.

Since August, Dell Inc., Apple Computer Inc., Lenovo Group Ltd., International Business Machines Corp., Toshiba, Hitachi, Fujitsu and Sharp Corp. have announced the recall of a combined 7.74 million Sony-made batteries used in their laptops because they can overheat.

Sony has estimated it will incur a maximum cost of 30 billion yen over the recall, but if all the computer makers affected pursue claims similar to Toshiba’s, that figure could go much higher.

There have been about 10 reports of overheating in personal computers with Sony-made batteries, including a Lenovo laptop that caught fire at Los Angeles International Airport in September.

Sony has said some of its lithium-ion batteries can overheat and short-circuit on rare occasions because metal fragments somehow got mixed into them during production.

There have been no reports of a Toshiba laptop overheating.

Toshiba fears the battery incident could negatively affect its Christmas sales this year, considering it is recalling a particularly large number of computers in the United States, a key market.

“If the incident over the faulty Sony batteries does cause our sales to decline or result in other kinds of damage, we will consider demanding Sony make compensation,” a Toshiba official said.

A Fujitsu official said its personal computers sales have been slower than projections since the battery recalls came to a head.

Sony has so far declined comment on the compensation claims being studied by these companies, saying that so far no firms have made any such demand.

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