Samsung Fined $14 Million Over Water Resistance Claims on Galaxy Phones

Samsung Fined $14 Million Over Water Resistance Claims on Galaxy Phones
Samsung Galaxy S8. Image: Sam Rutherford/Gizmodo Australia

Samsung has been ordered by the Federal Court to pay $14 million in penalties around claims it made regarding the water resistance of some of its phones.

The court ruling follows proceedings brought by the ACCC against Samsung Electronics Australia Pty Ltd back in 2019.

The ACCC said that between March 2016 and October 2018, Samsung Australia conducted a marketing campaign that included nine ads, published across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, on its website and in-store, which represented that these Galaxy phones were suitable to be used in pool and sea water.

At the time, the ACCC accused Samsung of misleading advertising causing consumers to believe its Galaxy phones can be used in many different types of water, including swimming pools and oceans, without suffering damage.

The phones in question are S7, S7 Edge, A5 (2017), A7 (2017), S8, S8 Plus and Note 8. The ACCC said there were more than 3.1 million of these phones sold in Australia.

“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,” the ACCC said in a statement on Thursday.

It’s important to note, however, the case only relates to a prospect of corrosion of the charging port. That is, if the phone was charged while pool or sea water remained in the charging port, and only following submersion in pool or sea water.

It does not relate to water resistance generally.

According to ACCC chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb, the watchdog received a number of complaints from consumers who reported they experienced issues with their Galaxy phone after it was exposed to water. She said in many cases, the phone stopped working entirely. As we reported at the time, Samsung’s advertising claimed Galaxy phones are water resistant to a depth of 1.5 metres for up to 30 minutes, as well as other promotional material that included photos of Galaxy phones submerged in swimming pools, and images of the ocean.

In a statement provided to Gizmodo Australia on Thursday, Samsung Australia said the seven phone models were tested extensively to assess their water resistance capabilities, prior to launch, including tests in pool and sea water.

The company said phones would display a warning message to discourage consumers from attempting to charge the phones while water was in the charging port. The phones also had inbuilt systems to minimise the prospect of corrosion if the phones were attempted to be charged while water remained in the charging port.

“Notwithstanding this, the ACCC and Samsung have agreed that, if the historical Galaxy phone models were submerged in pool or sea water and then attempted to be charged while pool or sea water remained in the charging port (despite the warning message) then there was a material prospect that the charging port might corrode over time,” Samsung said in its statement.

Just to confirm, the issue in the case does not affect Samsung’s current phones or any other models not listed above.

Consumers who purchased one of the relevant Galaxy phones and experienced damage to the charging port (but only after submerging the phone in pool or sea water and then attempting to charge the phone while water remained in the port) are encouraged to contact Samsung Australia on 1300 362 603.