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Samsung fined $14 million over misleading water resistance claims across its Galaxy smartphones

The company admitted its smartphones would become corroded and stop working if the devices were charged while still wet

Samsung Australia has been ordered to pay $14 million (£7.9 million) over misleading claims about the suitability of various Samsung Galaxy phones to be submerged underwater.

The legal proceedings were launched against the company in July 2019 by the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) in relation to the marketing of certain Samsung smartphones.

The ACCC said that the misleading claims were made about the water resistance of the S7, S7 Edge, A5 (2017), A7 (2017), S8, S8 Plus, and Note 8 Samsung Galaxy phones. There were over 3.1 million of these devices sold in Australia.

Between March 2016 and October 2018, Samsung Australia conducted a marketing campaign of nine ads that were published through various channels, including on its website, in-store, and on social media. The ads claimed that the Galaxy phones were suitable to be used in a pool and in sea water.

However, Samsung Australia acknowledged that if the Galaxy phones were submerged in pool or sea water there was a chance that the charging port would become corroded and stop working if the device was charged while still wet.

“Samsung Australia’s water resistance claims promoted an important selling point for these Galaxy phones. Many consumers who purchased a Galaxy phone may have been exposed to the misleading ads before they made their decision to purchase a new phone,” ACCC chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb said.

Cass-Gottlieb added that the ACCC has reviewed hundreds of complaints from consumers who reported they experienced issues with their Galaxy phones after it was exposed to water and, in many cases, they reported their Galaxy phone stopped working entirely.

Before launching the Galaxy phones, Samsung Australia’s parent company, Samsung, was already seeking to mitigate the effects of the charging port corrosion caused by charging following exposure to water. Despite this, the marketing campaign promoted the devices being used in water.

“This penalty is a strong reminder to businesses that all product claims must be substantiated,” said Cass-Gottlieb. “The ACCC will continue to take enforcement action against businesses that mislead consumers with claims about the nature or benefits of their products.”

IT Pro has contacted Samsung for comment.

Samsung Australia admitted that it had contravened Australian Consumer Law and made joint submissions with the ACCC in respect of penalties and orders.

The ACCC stated that consumers who purchased one of the relevant Galaxy phones and experienced damage to the charging port after submerging the phone in pool or sea water and then attempted to charge the phone are encouraged to contact Samsung Australia.

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