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Fake batteries causing cell phone explosions

Paraphrased by:
Steve Waldrop
October 14, 2003

Cell phone maker Nokia has issued a warning that a growing number of its mobile phones are being damaged by badly made or counterfeit batteries from other companies.

The number of phones destroyed by so-called third-party batteries, sold by street venders or on the Web, have risen enough since late last year to prompt a warning from Nokia, said company spokesman Keith Nowak.

The Finnish phone giant said that a young Vietnamese woman was hospitalized with burns after her mobile phone apparently exploded. Contraband and counterfeit mobile phone batteries are widely available in Vietnam in local markets for about $2 to $3 apiece, compared with $20 for a genuine product, a local Nokia representative said. This incident follows two similar accidents that have occurred in the Netherlands since August.

In the latest Dutch incident, a supermarket employee burned his legs when a Nokia cell phone exploded in his pants pocket. In August, a 33-year-old Dutch woman was injured when her Nokia phone exploded in her hands.

According to a company spokesman, Nokia has learned that all three users installed counterfeit batteries manufactured by unauthorized suppliers.

Nokia has cited faulty batteries from independent electronics manufacturers for similar incidents in the past. The company has said these manufacturers violated security requirements that should prevent the battery heating up after short-circuiting, for example, after the phone is dropped.

Reports about exploding phones could add to the general unrest among some cell phone owners about the safety of the devices. Some scientists are debating whether radiation from certain models might cause cancer.

Original cell phone batteries are available for between $24.95 and $74.95 through Nokia's U.S. e-commerce site, but many companies or individuals sell illegally manufactured batteries that are much cheaper than original batteries. Those batteries aren't subject to the same quality control and testing that Nokia batteries undergo said a company spokesman.

Nokia batteries, should be marked clearly to reflect Nokia branding and compliance with local safety standards.

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