Australia Fines Samsung Over Water-Resistance Claims

Samsung Electronics has incurred the ire of the Australian consumer protection watchdog over a nine of its advertisements for its smartphone range.

The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) announced on Thursday that it had ordered Samsung Electronics Australia to pay AUS $14 million (US $9.7m) in penalties “after it admitted misleading consumers about the suitability of various Samsung Galaxy phones to be submerged in pool or sea water.”

The Aussie regulator flagged nine misleading advertisements about the water-resistance feature, and launched legal proceedings against Samsung over the matter in July 2019.

Misleading claims

“The false or 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 (Galaxy phones),” said the ACCC. “There were more than 3.1 million of these Galaxy phones sold in Australia.”

The regulator noted that Samsung Australia has acknowledged that if the Galaxy phones were submerged in pool or sea water there was a material prospect the charging port would become corroded and stop working if the phone was charged while still wet.

“Samsung Australia’s water resistance claims promoted an important selling point for these Galaxy phones,” ACCC Chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb said. “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.”

“We 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,” Cass-Gottlieb said.

Prior to the launch of the Galaxy phones down under, Samsung back in South Korea were already seeking to mitigate the effects of this charging port corrosion caused by charging following exposure to water.

The Aussie regulator said that 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.”

“Samsung Australia’s ads promoting its Galaxy phones featured people using their phones in pools and sea water, despite the fact that this could ultimately result in significant damage to the phone,” Cass-Gottlieb said.

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

Apple fine

It should be noted that Apple has also previously been pinged on this matter as well.

In December 2020, Apple was fined $12 million (£9.3m) by Italy’s competition regulator for “aggressive and misleading” commercial practices regarding its iPhones.

Italy’s Autorità Garante della Concorrenza e del Mercato (AGCM) said at the time that Apple was fined because it advertised that several iPhone models (from the iPhone 8 to iPhone 11) were water-resistant.

However, Apple did not clarify that these phones were only waterproof under certain circumstances.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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