Samsung shipped 2.5 million units of Galaxy Note7, to retailers in several markets, with 1 million of those units reaching consumers, before announcing a recall of all of the 2.5 million units due to an error in production. The production error allegedly resulted in pressure being placed on the plates contained within the battery cells, putting the negative and positive poles into contact, causing excessive heat and products catching fire.
According to Bloomberg, Samsung have said to regulators “the phone’s battery was slightly too big for its compartment and the tight space pinched the battery”.
In the UK, USA, Australia and South Korea, there have been reports of more than 100 incidents, serious damage sustained to property, as well as harm to individuals.
A consumer’s Jeep caught fire and was utterly destroyed in St Petersburg, USA, and over $A1800 Australian Dollars’ worth of damage was caused to a hotel room in Perth, Australia. The consumer in Australia had lodged an application with Samsung when the recall was officially announced, and the incident happened three days later. Whilst a six year old in New York City was rushed to hospital with burns as the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 “exploded in his hands”, and a California man suffered 2nd and 3rd degree burns to his leg, finger and thumb, when his phone exploded in his pocket.
So far news coverage suggests that Samsung has covered the bill for the hotel room and that they have yet to pay to replace the Jeep. There has been no concrete reporting of whether compensation has been given for injuries that have occurred, though the man who sustained severe burns has been reported as saying he will sue Samsung.
What are Samsung doing to inform affected consumers?
Samsung has set up an exchange programme where affected customers can swap their Galaxy Note7’s, for another phone.
What the replacement will be depends on which country you are in, with some customers being offered a new Galaxy Note7 with a new battery, other customers being offered older models of the phone, such as the Galaxy S7 or Galaxy S7 Edge, and in some cases customers are offered temporary phones for free while they wait for a new Galaxy Note7 with a new battery.
The exchange programme won’t be complete for another couple of weeks, with safe replacement products being rolled out to different countries from 19th September 2016 onwards. So we must be vigilant in ensuring that all consumers affected have been treated fairly and effectively.
Please see below for the current communications from Samsung to customers in countries where there have been reports of damage to people and property.
In the USA, prior to 21st September customers could exchange the faulty phone for the safer model of the Galaxy Note7. Now US customers can only exchange the faulty phone for a Galaxy S7 or Galaxy S7 Edge and get replacement of any Note7 specific accessories with a refund of the price difference between devices; or they can contact their point of purchase to obtain a total refund.
In Australia, from 21st September customers were able to exchange faulty phones for the safer models of the Galaxy Note7.* Samsung has also announced that an automatic software update will be released in Australia from 21st September to all original Galaxy Note7 smartphones purchased in this country. The software update will automatically download and install to all original Galaxy Note7 smartphones that were purchased in Australia to limit the smartphone battery to a maximum charge of 60 per cent. The update is part of Samsung Australia’s ongoing commitment to safety in relation to the battery cell issue with original versions of the smartphone. There will also be a software update made available that customers will need to download for new replacement Galaxy Note7 smartphones. This software update will introduce a green battery icon to identify that the new device does not have the reported battery issue and is safe to use.
Hong Kong and Macau
Thanks to the work of Hong Kong Consumer Council, Samsung’s Hong Kong and Macau website has the most up to date and detailed information, with its very own separate pop up on their website. They state exactly how many of the model had be sold in Hong Kong between 26th August and 1 September – which was 500 units. Samsung say the units sold after the 1st September are not at risk of being affected as the batteries were provided by another supplier.
Samsung in Hong Kong and Macau, have issued this notice:
“A mandatory software update will be issued on 18 September 2016 to the remaining 159 Galaxy Note7 devices – purchased in Hong Kong and Macau between 26 August and 1 September 2016 – which may be affected by the battery issue. This mandatory software update will limit maximum battery capacity to 60% as a safety precaution and help urge customers to return these affected devices as soon as possible. Push notifications and public announcements will be made beforehand to alert consumers of the rationale and consequences of this automatic software update.
At the same time, we continue to contact owners of the remaining affected Galaxy Note7 devices using multiple channels and all means available to us.”
They are also encouraging Hong Kong and Macau consumers to check whether their phone is safe by using their IMEI number and cross checking it against Samsung’s own database, using a webform on their country specific website.
In the United Kingdom, the programme to exchange faulty phones for safer Galaxy Note7 with a new battery is still running, but it is being coordinated by retailers and network providers that originally sold the faulty product. Customers who have bought a faulty phone should have been contacted by retailers and network providers before the 19th September to arrange an exchange, but if they haven’t been contacted they are encouraged to contact whoever they purchased the model from to arrange the exchange themselves.
Samsung UK advises, “If you have a Galaxy Note7 device, until a replacement device is provided Samsung asks that you power down your device and return it to its place of purchase at your earliest opportunity. Please use your previous device until a new Galaxy Note7 can be provided. If you do not have your previous device please contact the provider or operator you purchased the device from to organise a loan device until it is possible to exchange your Galaxy Note7.”
In South Korea, customers were offered a temporary phone until the 18th September while they waited for Samsung to replace their faulty phone with the safer Galaxy Note7 with a new battery. The safer product replacement has been available from the 19th September and affected consumers can arrange their exchange in store. If returning the phone for a refund is difficult customers can return the product to another location, listed on Samsung Korea’s website, for which they will receive cash on delivery.
What about consumers in countries where it hasn’t been released or where incidents haven’t been reported?
Across Latin America, Africa and Asia Pacific, Samsung are inconsistent in warning consumers.
In Latin America where the product has yet to be launched, some countries have been warned about the faulty phones, like Mexico, but other countries, such as Paraguay, weren’t.
In African markets they only chosen to warn consumers in Egypt and Libya that there has been a product recall and that they might be affected.
In Asia Pacific they have warned customers to differing degrees in Australia, New Zealand, China, Hong Kong, Korea and Macau, but haven’t warned customers in Japan or Thailand and many other countries in the region.
Samsung could argue the reason they have not informed some consumer audiences is because they have yet to launch products in these places, but as they indicate in their own communications to Egyptian, Libyan and Australian audiences, they are a global company offering a product that can be bought and consumed anywhere in the world.
There is an inconsistency in how they communicate what is happening with consumers not only globally, but also within regions.
Are Samsung being consistent and responsible?
It is clear from Samsung’s varied approach to the recall and exchange programme that different levels of customer service are available to different markets. The opportunity for customers to check whether their phone is affected by inputting their IMEI number into a database is a useful tool but is not available to all of Samsung’s customers, with some audiences completely unaware that there has been a fault in the initial product launch which may affect their decision to purchase the product.