U.S. recalls Chromebook 11 chargers; Google, HP pulled laptops from shelves last month

Mark Lennihan/AP - The HP Chromebook 11. The new $279 laptop, based on Google's Chrome operating system, borrows many of the high-end features found in a model that costs about $1,000 more

The Consumer Product Safety Commission on Tuesday recalled the chargers for the HP Chromebook 11 after receiving nine reports that the laptop’s unique charger is prone to overheating and melting during use.

The charger can reportedly heat up to such a high temperature that at least one customer suffered a small burn, according to the commission. There was also a report of a “minor property damage to a pillow” from an overheated charger, the agency said.

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The recall affects about 145,000 laptops, according to the notice.

Google and Hewlett-Packard temporarily pulled the laptops from shelves in November, citing similar problems with its bundled charger. The recall does not affect other models of the Chromebook line, including other Chromebooks made by HP.

The HP Chromebook 11 uses a micro-USB charger, making it compatible with the cords that many companies use for other tablets and phones. HP and Google warned customers who had bought the $280 laptops not to use the charger.

The companies have said that sales of the Chromebook 11 will resume soon — with a new charger.

“We apologize again for the inconvenience this has caused,” HP said in a statement. “Your safety is our top priority.”

Google had posted a notice on its blog warning that customers who purchased a Chromebook 11 before Dec. 1 should stop using the original charger and request a replacement. The notice includes a frequently-asked-questions section explaining the recall and a link to an online order form for the replacement.

The $280 HP Chromebook 11 was supposed to be a flagship product for both companies this holiday season. Its charger was one of the main drawing points for the low-cost laptop, since its micro-USB tip could be used to power multiple gadgets and cut down on clutter in users’ backpacks, briefcases and carry-ons.

Google has seen fairly good success with the lightweight laptop line. Bloomberg reported in July that Chromebooks had picked up between 20 percent and 25 percent of the under-$300 laptop market.

Overheating power adapters and batteries are two of the most common reasons that laptop computers or accessories are recalled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Particularly in the early 2000s, notebook companies including Dell and Apple faced recalls of thousands of adapters because of the threat of fires.

Nor is this the only recall HP has faced in recent years. In 2011, batteries in some of its notebook computers were recalled because they could overheat and pose fire and burn hazards. In January, HP agreed to pay $425,000 in a civil penalty for not immediately reporting that there were problems with its lithium-ion battery packs.

Consumers who bought the Chromebook 11 laptop from Best Buy, Amazon.com, Google or HP during its brief month on sale can contact Google at 1-866-628-1371 for a free replacement charger, the company has said. Consumers can also go to the Chromebook Web site and click on “Support” to seek a replacement charger.

 
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