Samsung Sued Over Non-Removable Bloatware

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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The lawsuit by a Chinese consumer rights group seeks the introduction of clearer information and removal instructions

Samsung has been sued by a consumer protection group in China over its practice of pre-installing software on its smartphones and tablets, much of which can’t be easily removed or disabled.

The Shanghai Consumer Rights Protection Commission said it had taken formal legal action against Samsung and Chinese smartphone maker Oppo over the issue in Shanghai No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court, according to a Shanghai Daily report. The lawsuits reportedly followed an investigation of complaints from the public.


The consumer rights group said it examined 20 handsets and found that many contained unwanted pre-installed applications, some of which ate into users’ data packages when they automatically updated themselves. The group cited the Samsung SM-N9008S, with 44 pre-installed applications, and the Oppo X9007 with 71 apps.

The Samsung software included a dictionary and an online shopping program, while the Oppo model included games and other programs, according to the commission. Neither company informed buyers of the presence of the apps, which the group argued is an infringement of consumers’ rights.

The commission is seeking a ruling that would oblige companies to disclose what apps are pre-installed and to provide instructions for their removal.

Currently, pre-installed apps can in some cases only be removed by installing advanced software that grants a user administrative privileges to the device, although Samsung has allowed apps to be removed on some newer devices, such as the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge.

Consumer rights

“The litigation is our latest attempt to safeguard consumers’ rights after other methods failed,” the commission’s secretary-general, Tao Ailian, told the newspaper, adding that the practice of pre-installing applications should be ended to ensure the “healthy development of the whole industry”.

Samsung has 15 days to respond to the lawsuit. Samsung said in a statement it would “thoroughly review the court document and determine an appropriate response”.

Last year South Korea’s Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning (MISP) introduced guidelines that oblige smartphone makers to allow users to remove some pre-installed software. The rules don’t apply to some core features such as app stores, Wi-Fi or user settings, but affect more than half of Samsung’s pre-installed apps.

The rules also apply to pre-installed Google apps such as Gmail and Hangouts.

A Strategy Analytics survey of US Samsung users last year found that Samsung’s pre-installed apps were rarely used, with, for instance, users spending an average of six seconds per month on ChatOn, compared to 151 minutes on Instagram.

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