Australian consumer watchdog sues Samsung over Galaxy ads

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has today announced plans to take Samsung to court over its advertising of Samsung Galaxy phones in the country since 2016.

The problem is with water resistance, a high-end feature of the Galaxy range for three years. While the documentation for Samsung handsets says the handsets are resistant up to 1.5 metres of water for 30 minutes, the ACCC contends that the adverts – which show people riding through waves and taking their phones in swimming pools – are not representative of the kind of use the phones are actually protected against.  

The Samsung website even states that the newly-released Galaxy S10 is “not advised for beach or pool use.” The ACCC believes that Samsung has also “denied warranty claims from consumers whose phones were damaged when used in water.”

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“The ACCC alleges Samsung’s advertisements falsely and misleadingly represented Galaxy phones would be suitable for use in, or for exposure to, all types of water, including in ocean water and swimming pools, and would not be affected by such exposure to water for the life of the phone, when this was not the case,” said Rod Sims, the ACCC Chair.

The ACCC case focuses on 15 handsets manufactured in the last three years: the S10e, S10, S10 Plus, S9, S9 Plus, S8, S8 Plus, S7, S7 Edge, Note 9, Note 8, Note 7, A8, A7, and A5. The commission states that Samsung has sold more than four million Galaxy handsets in the country.

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“Samsung itself has acknowledged that water resistance is an important factor influencing Australian consumer decisions when they choose what mobile phone to purchase,” Sims continued. “Samsung showed the Galaxy phones used in situations they shouldn’t be to attract customers. Under the Australian Consumer Law, businesses cannot mislead consumers about their products’ capabilities. Any attempt to do so will risk court action from the ACCC.”

For its part, Samsung Australia believes it has done nothing wrong, and intends to defend itself. “Samsung stands by its marketing and advertising of the water resistancy of its smartphones,” the company said in a statement. “We are also confident that we provide customers with free-of-charge remedies in a manner consistent with Samsung’s obligations under its manufacturer warranty and the Australian Consumer Law.”

The whole thing is faintly reminiscent of Sony’s troubles with the Xperia Z3. Back in 2014, Sony released the handset along with promises that users could take photos underwater thanks to its advanced waterproofing. Months later, Sony removed the claim and advised customers against doing exactly what the marketing suggested was possible.

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