After seeing his laptop go up in flames, a Dallas man has a warning to anyone who has ever purchased a replacement battery online.
It was anything but a typical day in the office for Erich Neupert. He said it started with a volunteer at his non-profit pulling him out of a meeting.
“Sparks are flying overhead. I’m getting burned. It’s coming down over us,” Neupert explained. “You see the videos of computers exploding and everything, but you think it’s going to happen to you? No!”
He said three explosions came from this laptop, and battery cells were flying across the room.
Tom Mulkerin, a retired firefighter, witnessed the first two outbreaks.
“I came over, grabbed the fire extinguisher,” recalled Mulkerin. “We got that put out and at that point, we have another explosion. It looked like a fountain of sparks just coming up over and over.”
They finally got the situation under control and assessed the damage.
“Immediately it was like, alright, we have a battery issue,” said Neupert.
He ordered the replacement battery from Amazon.com.
Neupert said, based on the description, it appeared to be compatible with his laptop. The price wasn’t bad, either.
He said the laptop would get hot from time to time, but he thought that was normal.
“I didn’t think a laptop would be the thing to be concerned about,” said Neupert.
Randy Haba, a tech expert, said video of the incident doesn’t surprise him. He said improper battery pairing can cause laptops to malfunction, overheat and even explode.
“It’s always a mixed experience,” Haba explained. “We try to dissuade our clients from purchasing batteries or any other hardware from amazon basically because you don’t know if you’re going to get new or refurbished.”
The NBC 5 Responds team went to Neupert’s order history to see if the product was still available on Amazon.com, and it was.
We then asked Amazon if it’s received any complaints about this specific battery or the third party seller “E-life.”
Amazon said, in part, “safety is among our highest priorities. We monitor the products sold on our website for product safety concerns, and when appropriate, we remove the product from the website, reach out to sellers and manufacturers for additional information or take other actions.”
That same day, the product page was taken down.
Neupert said he’ll be more careful when buying batteries on Amazon and wants to raise awareness so it never happens again.
“This hopefully a once in a lifetime experience,” he said.
Amazon processed Neupert’s refund the same day the page was taken down.
Tech experts suggest going through the laptop manufacturer for replacement batteries.
• You can also purchase a battery warranty or protection plan.
• If you insist on buying a replacement battery elsewhere, be sure that the battery is compatible with the device. If it doesn’t deliver a specific wattage, it could ruin the device, or worse, explode.
• Check the reviews online. Some third party sellers may advertise new batteries, but they could be used or refurbished.