A recall by any other name...

A recall by any other name...
Nokia has always prided itself on never having had a product recall, and, at least officially, the company can continue to make that claim. Yesterday, most media outlets (including FierceWireless) ran a story that Nokia had "recalled" 46 million mobile phone batteries because in "very rare cases" those batteries could overheat while charging, the company said. But Nokia never used the word "recall," a word that tends to have a dramatic effect on a company's stock price. As Nokia's public relations team quickly contacted the offending publications, the word "recall" began to disappear from the articles, including those from the Associated Press and Reuters.

In the U.S. a product recall can only officially occur if the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (USCPS) insists that a company carry one out, according to Scott Wolfson, a director of public affairs at the USCPS. Wolfson said the commission is reviewing information from Nokia currently as to whether a full recall should be put in place for the batteries, but there is no recall for the product right now.

After FierceWireless contacted Nokia regarding the widely circulating report that a recall was in effect, the company's spokesman Keith Nowak explained the difference between a recall and its "product advisory."

"A recall is something that a company and its customers must do--a call to action. In this case, the number of incidents reported with these products (100 out of a base of 300 million) combined with the mild result of the overheating (an overheated battery combined with the possibility of expansion and the battery then popping out of the phone) meant that there was no immediate need for a recall to be issued..." Nowak wrote. "However, as a responsible corporate citizen, Nokia felt that consumers should be made aware of the potential (however rare that potential may be) issue with this one batch of Matsushita manufactured batteries."

Sony's batteries have already given the tech industry visions of exploding laptops and apartments going up in flames as a result. But reports about the exploding batteries from Sony began about a year ago, and Sony reportedly knew about the issue long before that and kept it a secret until pictures of charred laptops appeared on message boards. The whole fiasco cost Sony some $400 million, analysts estimated at the time.

The crucial distinction between Sony and Nokia is that Nokia got out in front of the issue, before any official recall was put in place and before any serious injuries or property damage occurred. Even if none of the three seemed likely to occur at all. -Brian