Samsung fines $14 million for misleading smartphone ads • The Register

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has fined Samsung Electronics AU$14 million ($9.6 million) for making misleading claims about the water resistance of approximately 3.1 million smartphones.

The Commission (ACCC) says Samsung advertised its Galaxy S7, S7 Edge, A5, A7, S8, S8 Plus and Note 8 smartphones between 2016 and 2018 as being able to withstand brief immersions in the sea or freshwater water.

As it happens The register attended the Australian launch of the Note 8 and watched in amazement as it survived a brief submersion and bubbles seemed to come out of the device. Your correspondent recalls that Samsung claimed that the water resistance reflected the aim of designing a phone that could handle the Australian outdoor lifestyle.

But the ACCC has labeled ads glorifying water resistance as a misleading feature of the phones.

“We’ve looked at hundreds of complaints from consumers who reported having problems with their Galaxy phones after being exposed to water, and in many cases, their Galaxy phone stopped working at all,” said ACCC President Gina Cass-Gottlieb .

The problem wasn’t that the phones were leaking. Instead, Samsung didn’t advise that if the phones were charged after a dunking, there was a “material prospect” that the charging port would corrode and stop working.

“Before the launch of the Galaxy phones, Samsung Australia’s parent company, Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd., was already trying to mitigate the effects of this charging port corrosion caused by charging after exposure to water,” according to an ACCC statement. “Nevertheless, Samsung Australia’s marketing campaign promoted the use of Galaxy phones in swimming pools and in seawater, while there was a material prospect of the Galaxy phones being damaged by corrosion.”

The ACCC’s statement points out that the fines it is allowed to impose have risen significantly since the time of Samsung’s misconduct, so the company could have been charged a much higher bill for its misleading advertising.

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