The Grumpy Old Man

Index News Home Eco Life Etiquette Big Bro Business Money Contact About Forum


Laptop Rechargeable Battery pricing

Is laptop battery pricing profiteering and producing cartels,are shipping restrictions followed or do suppliers pick and chose where to supply on a whim?

I have just replaced the battery on my laptop. It appears I was optimistic in expecting it to last longer than four years. This surprised me since I've used it predominantly with the mains plugged in. Consequently, doing some research I found that it is recommended that laptop batteries should be used rather than left permanently on float charge. (A fact not openly publicised by battery/laptop computer manufacturers) This means that if you aren't travelling with your laptop but use it mostly at home on mains, you should also use it solely on the internal battery on a regular basis. Running it though doesn't do any harm or cause any problems, provided of course you have the charging point available. While waiting for my new battery to be delivered I tried this recommendation and when the battery was low a message popped up saying "your battery is low: connect charger". This facility gives you time to "exercise" your battery without losing any data, and almost certainly extends the life of the battery.

The reason for this grump is that I was very surprised at the policy adopted initially by Amazon and other suppliers of these batteries. Living in a fairly rural location, I am a great user of the Internet for purchasing all sorts of goods. Through Amazon.uk, I could purchase a battery compatible with my laptop for just over 10. In fact, I had the choice of about 20 different suppliers, most operating through Amazon Marketplace. This is obviously an example of competition keeping the price down. Imagine my horror when I laboriously went through all of these suppliers trying to place an order only to be told by each one that "we can't deliver to Ireland".

I suppose that didn't surprise me as the batteries are lithium/ion and there have been instances of catastrophic failure of these batteries causing a very high temperature fire. In fact, the Boeing Dream Liner was grounded soon after launch, for quite a number of months, due to exactly this problem. Also, I heard of a Playschool in the Bristol area having a severe fire that was eventually traced to one of these laptops being left on float charge overnight. The battery exploded causing the fire. Since these and similar events, very strict restrictions have been placed on transporting these devices around the world. I believe that the Amazon approach was prompted by this, as many of their small packages are transported by "Royal Mail" and would probably be delivered to Ireland from a UK supplier by air.

Frustratingly I have occasionally come across this problem before, particularly with electrical goods being delivered to Ireland.

I then sought suppliers in Ireland, fortunately finding quite a few. The rub here was that the most economical I could find wanted to charge 34! (About 30 at today's exchange rates) Gordon Bennett I thought, that's three times the b****y price! There must be some way round that. I did another quick search of Amazon DE (Germany), Amazon F in France and Amazon in Spain. All of them, without fail, came up with a price around the 34 mark. Just out of curiosity, I actually looked at Amazon Australia and the price they would have charged was much the same.

Let's take a step back from this as all of these batteries are made in China! How in the world do they get over to Europe and why do consignments to one country, 50 miles from a second country cost three times as much. After all, nominally speaking, they've already travelled over sixteen or seventeen odd thousand miles from the site of manufacturing to get to Europe.

I can only assume that here we have an example of gross profiteering, price-fixing, a pricing cartel and all sorts of other illegal nasties. I thought the EU was supposed to stamp down on this sort of thing! At the moment, the UK is still part of the EU so where is this free movement of goods, in particular for these batteries? That concept of free movement seems to be a right load of old bollux!

What absolutely incensed me was that when I placed the order with an Irish supplier, he replied "we are currently out of stock, and expecting a new shipment from the UK tomorrow! They normally arrive in time for us to ship to you the day they arrived with us".

Finally, and I accept this is just a great big grump, but I must query Amazon's original ruling. Over the last four years I have received through Amazon two different laptops. Each of these laptops came complete with one of these batteries and the laptop itself although separately packaged, they were both in the same box. What in the world is different that makes this acceptable and the separate supply of a single battery a no-no?

Would somebody out there care to explain this totally irrational ruling?