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December 18, 2003

I am fed up with Disposable Devices and You should be too!

Today, after having my year old Palm become my latest disposable device I had to do something about this new trend in portable consumer electronics. So I wrote the following email to Senator Leahy. If you agree with me perhaps you should email him as well.

Dear Senator Leahy,

As a constituent of yours, I am writing you today to urge you to draft, introduce, and support legislation that would ban the sale of portable consumer electronic devices that are powered by an internal rechargeable battery that is not easily replaceable by the consumer.

I make this request to you not only because I am a constituent of yours but also since I recall seeing you using cameras and other consumer electronic devices during bill signings and press conferences. I also recall an interview where you mentioned that you enjoy using these type of gadgets and have a great personal interest in technology unlike many of your colleagues in Congress.

I ask for this ban because all devices with an internal rechargeable battery that is not replaceable by the consumer is most likely designed with the intent of being a disposable device that will have to be replaced by the consumer within an average of 18 months. This is because the Li-ion rechargeable battery in most of these devices irreversibly loses approximately 20% of its capacity per year from the time they are manufactured, even when unused. Furthermore, every discharge cycle decreases their capacity further. The degradation is sloped such that 100 cycles leave the battery with about 75% to 85% of the original. When used in consumer electronic devices or cellular phones, this rate of deterioration means that in as little as 1 year the battery will have capacities too low to be still usable.

The consumer electronic manufactures are well aware of these problems with Li-Ion batteries but still introduce and sell products that have these non replaceable batteries inside them. Since these facts about the lifespan of these batteries are not disclosed to consumers at the time of purchase or in the product's documentation or manuals, I believe consumers may have allegedly been intentionally defrauded by many consumer electronic manufacturers!

I don't make this request to ban these devices lightly. It would effectively ban the sale of most portable consumer electronics sold today. For example all models of Apple's iPod, many Palm and PocketPC PDA devices and a slew of cheaper cell phones would have to be redesigned.

If you examine the case of the $300-$500 Apple iPod digital music player alone you could easily see the need for such a ban. Apple has sold at least 2 million units since they were first introduced in late 2001 and their owners started to get a rude surprise in many cases within just one year after the purchase. Interestingly enough just as new larger capacity models came to market. Each year since Apple has introduced larger model capacities a year apart and suggested users upgrade instead of sending the unit in for their battery replacement service. The battery replacement service was just recently lowered from around $150 after rising customer complaints to the cost of $105.95. In my opinion this is unacceptable and shows corporate greed at its worse and is possibly the best example of planned obsolesce in use.

If you were to introduce legislation that would require consumer electronic devices to be designed with a user replaceable battery and also require manufacturers to sell replacement batteries for a reasonable time frame and at reasonable cost consumers wouldn't be forced to needlessly replace these devices at considerable expense so often. Not only would this save consumers money it would also ensure that less of these devices would end up in land fills.

Mr Leahy, I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this problem and hope to discuss possible solutions such as authoring legislation to combat this alarming trend by consumer electronic manufactures.

All the best,
[Address and personal information removed]

Posted in Podcasts & iPods by usrbingeek at 2003-12-18 22:40 ET (GMT-5) | 3 Comments | Permalink



Posted by: Cory at December 19, 2003 01:07 AM

Don't forget to post his reply to your letter...should be interesting.

Posted by: Gnimsh at December 31, 2003 10:40 AM

Disclosure is one thing, but a ban? Don't be silly. People can make decisions on what's worthwhile for themselves.

Posted by: David Mitchell at January 1, 2004 08:27 PM

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