Battery pack ripoff

Another example of commercial interests treating customers as milch cows.

18 July 2003

I went looking for a replacement battery for a Uniden DGA940 cordless phone handset. MODEL: DGA940 DGMax
Quotes ranged from $30 to $35 (Australian). That seemed more than a little excessive for something the size of three AA cells.

I asked the retailers why the price is so high. One answer attributed it to the fact that the DGA940 is digital. Another said that you've got to allow for the value of the case (of the battery pack).

MODEL: BT-900 DC 3.6V 600mAh
So I opened the case and found - three AA NiCad cells:
The flimsy case is stuck to the cells with double-sided tape, lending the pack some rigidity.

A multimeter confirms that one cell is dead. The other two are still operating at full capacity.

3 cells in a row, like peas in a pod
Apart from the print on the wrapping, I discerned no difference between the the AA cells in the battery pack and a bog-standard Sanyo CADNICA N-600AA: Sanyo CADNICA N-600AA 1.2V, 600mAh
The 600AA, it seems, is no longer manufactured. A quick search turned up 700mAh CADNICA AA cells at $8.98 for two and $15.95 for four (Australian dollars, tax included). So the retail value of three cells is $11.9625 to $13.47. Being generous about the case, the battery pack is worth at most $14.00. With economies of scale, it should be possible to make decent profits at $12.00.

From a consumer's point of view, Uniden's decision to employ this type of battery pack (when ordinary AA NiCad cells would do the job nicely) inflates the price by over 100% and reduces the value by two thirds: the whole pack must be discarded when only one of three components has failed.
The kicker is inside the battery compartment of the handset:

Not my area of expertise, but:

  • is there much fire risk in a 3.6 volt circuit?
  • does the battery pack influence the risk?

23 July 2003

Phoned Uniden in Sydney on (02) 9599 3355.
They confirmed that the BT-900 battery pack is not used in any current Uniden product.
Their price? $40!

So the life of the product is effectively limited by how long the battery packs continue in manufacture (and remain affordable).

26 July 2003

Reluctantly bought replacement from Tandy: the cheapest place in Cessnock that had one in stock.
The packaging reveals the brand that, I guess, Uniden reckons will cause their handset to burst into flames: Replaces original Uniden battery BT-900.  Replaces original Toshiba battery TRB-8258
On the new battery pack, beneath a cheap sticker: digitor S3386
Is another label: GP cordless phone battery pack for Toshiba FT-8908
At least I can still get replacements - for now.


After cleaning up components of the old battery pack, I now have two perfectly serviceable AA Nickle Cadmium rechargeable cells.