Dell Computer Corp. is recalling about 284,000 batteries used in notebook computers sold to schools and other customers because they can overheat and catch fire.

Dell and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said the company had heard one report of a battery that overcharged and caught fire, resulting in minor property damage.

The recall, announced May 3, covers batteries used in Inspiron 5000 and 5000e notebooks shipped to consumers from January 7, 2000, to March 21 of this year. Dell and its service providers also sold the batteries separately during the same time for $100 to $130.

Dell spokesman Tom Kehoe said the recall would not have a material financial impact on the company.

Kehoe said the batteries were made by Panasonic, though a Pansonic spokesman disputed that characterization.

Kurt Praschak said the batteries were made by Matsushita Battery Industrial Co. Ltd. and do not carry the Panasonic name. Panasonic is a brand name of the parent company, Matsushita Electric Industrial Co.

Dell said consumers should remove the batteries from their notebooks and call the company. The recall doesn’t affect the computers themselves, which sold for $2,100 to $3,100.

The faulty batteries have a colored sticker with an identification number containing the either “99” or a series of numbers “00 51” or less and the letter P in the first line, Dell said.

This was the third notebook-related problem in the past year for Dell. The company last August warned as many as 400,000 customers that their machines may have contained defective memory chips.

In October, Dell recalled about 27,000 batteries used in notebook computers because of a similar fire hazard. That recall mostly affected Latitude and Inspiron 3700 and 3800 models sold last year.

Dell Battery Recall Program