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Samsung fined $14 million for misleading smartphone water resistance claims

Promoted phones as ready for a dunking – forgot to mention known problems with subsequent recharges

Australia’s Competition and Consumer Commission has fined Samsung Electronics AU$14 million ($9.6 million) for making for misleading water resistance claims about 3.1 million smartphones.

The Commission (ACCC) says that between 2016 and 2018 Samsung advertised its Galaxy S7, S7 Edge, A5, A7, S8, S8 Plus and Note 8 smartphones as capable of surviving short submersions in the sea or fresh water.

As it happens The Register attended the Australian launch of the Note 8 and watched on in wonder as it survived a brief dunking and bubbles appeared to emerge from within the device. Your correspondent recalls Samsung claiming that the waterproofing reflected the aim of designing a phone that could handle Australia's outdoors lifestyle.

But the ACCC has labelled ads extolling water resistance as a feature of the phones misleading.

"We reviewed hundreds of complaints from consumers who reported they experienced issues with their Galaxy phones after they were exposed to water and, in many cases, they reported their Galaxy phone stopped working entirely," said ACCC chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb.

The problem was not that the phones leaked. Rather, Samsung did not advise that if the phones were charged after a dunking, there was a "material prospect" the charging port would become corroded and stop working.

"Prior to the launch of the Galaxy phones, Samsung Australia's parent company, Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd., was already seeking to mitigate the effects of this charging port corrosion caused by charging following exposure to water" according to an ACCC statement. "Despite this, Samsung Australia's marketing campaign promoted Galaxy phones being used in pools and sea water while there remained a material prospect the Galaxy phones would be damaged due to corrosion."

The ACCC's statement points out that the fines it is permitted to levy have increased considerably since the time of Samsung's misconduct, so the company could have faced a much higher bill for its misleading ads. ®

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