Smartphones: Postal service bans foreign shipments

Smartphones with lithium batteries will no longer be accepted for international shipment beginning Wednesday because of fire risks. Shipments of smartphones to US troops abroad will have to go via UPS or FedEx. 

Rick Wilking/Reuters/File
File photo of a Nokia Lumia 900 smartphone at the Consumer Electronics Show opening in Las Vegas this past January. New rules by the US Postal Service mean that come Wednesday, Americans can no longer ship smartphones with lithium batteries abroad.

The U.S. Postal Service is banning international shipments of electronics with lithium batteries such as smartphones, laptops and iPads, citing the risk of fire.

Beginning Wednesday, consumers may no longer make the shipments, including to army and diplomatic post offices. That means friends and family will have to use more expensive private companies such as UPS and FedEx to ship electronics to U.S. troops based abroad.

The Postal Service cited discussion by the International Civil Aviation Organization and the Universal Postal Union. They issue semi-binding guidelines for global trade.

Officials expect that U.S. consumers can resume shipments in most cases after Jan. 1, once the agency develops a new policy "consistent with international standards."

Lithium batteries are believed to have caused at least two fires on cargo planes since 2006.

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