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Samsung Note 7 Battery Fires Reveal Flawed Safeguards, US Says

Jan. 24, 2017
The Consumer Product Safety Commission on Tuesday said that standards for lithium-ion batteries in mobile phones need to be updated.

Defects that caused Samsung Electronics Co.’s Note 7 phones to burst into flames last year revealed that the industry’s voluntary standards for the design and manufacture of rechargeable batteries aren’t adequate to protect safety, a U.S. consumer-safety regulator has concluded.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission, which negotiated a recall of 1.9 million of the phones and is conducting its own investigation, on Tuesday said in a press release that standards for lithium-ion batteries in mobile phones need to be updated.

Those standards were first developed in 2006 and haven’t been revised since 2011. The agency and Samsung are working with the industry to "take a fresh look" at the voluntary standard for lithium-ion batteries in smartphones, the commission said.

"Industry needs to learn from this experience and improve consumer safety by putting more safeguards in place during the design and manufacturing stages to ensure that technologies run by lithium-ion batteries deliver their benefits without the serious safety risks," CPSC Chairman Elliot Kaye said in the release.

The CPSC action has broad implications for the worldwide mobile phone industry, which sold 1.98 billion of the devices in 2015, according to Bloomberg Intelligence.

It is also the latest investigation to raise concerns about safety in the increasingly potent lithium-based cells that have become almost ubiquitous in people’s lives, powering everything from smartphones to power tools. In recent years there have been recalls of so-called hoverboard scooters, the grounding of Boeing Co.’s 787 and a ban on bulk shipments of batteries by passenger airlines as a result of safety concerns.

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