...product releases going up in smoke
After a disastrous launch of its latest flagship device, the Galaxy Note 7, South Korean tech giant Samsung have announced that they will permanently cease production of the smartphone.
The drastic measure came after reports emerged from around the world that the phone was liable to catch fire and explode during charging; Samsung previously issued a product recall, however it has emerged that replacement devices suffered from the same potentially fatal fault.
Dawn Rose, Associate Solicitor on Simpson Millar’s Personal Injury team, explains the nightmare saga for Samsung and outlines the law of selling unsafe products to consumers.
In a release that was seen as hugely significant for the Samsung brand, the Galaxy Note 7 was marketed as a high-end phablet capable of challenging Apple’s large-screen iPhone Plus devices.
With sales of Samsung’s Galaxy devices on the rise, the South Korean firm would have been confident that the Note 7 would continue the trend, especially after early reviews from tech publications generally positive.
The global release soon turned sour however when reports surfaced online that handsets across the globe were setting fire or exploding during, or just after, charging.
Samsung were commended by tech commentators for their fast response to initial reports, as they immediately issued a voluntary recall, offering consumers the chance to swap devices that included the suspected faulty battery.
This voluntary recall soon turned mandatory, as Samsung issued an official recall of the then 2.5 million handsets that had been sold to consumers, informing every user to power down their device and not use the handset until it had been replaced.
It was seen as Samsung placing consumer safety above profits and brand image, as they discovered that an apparent bad batch of batteries from a third party supplier was to blame. They replaced these faulty components and returned devices that were allegedly safe to use.
Replacement Devices Recalled
The situation went from bad to worse for Samsung, as reports began to flood in about replacement devices; one man claimed he awoke to a bedroom full of smoke and a domestic flight in the US was evacuated, both stories arose after replacement devices had caught fire.
Rather than matching their initial fast response and issuing further recall notices, Samsung dragged their feet on the emergence of reports around the replacement devices, continuing to claim that they were safe to use.
It is unclear whether Samsung’s response to reports of replacement devices was caused by a disbelief that they could have made the same fatal error twice or because they were not able to replicate the fault themselves but their continued insistence that the Note 7 was safe to use in the face of overwhelming evidence caused huge brand damage after their positive response to the initial crisis.
After further reports of the issue in replacement devices Samsung eventually warned users to avoid using their devices and said they would halt production and sales of the smartphone while they investigate the fresh claims of continued battery faults.
This was soon followed by the news that they would permanently stop production of the Galaxy Note 7 and pull all devices from shop shelves, essentially meaning that the handset, which retailed for £749, was discontinued just two months after it was first announced.
Product Recalls And Liability
With the Galaxy brand name now in a precarious position and Samsung’s stock price taking a hit, all while tech rival Apple’s reaches a 10-month high, the Note 7 saga is definitely one to forget for Samsung.
But what lessons can we take from the repeated recalls and potentially fatal product fault that caused the death of a flagship device from a leading name in the tech industry?
Dawn explains that the entire saga should be viewed as an awareness campaign for product liability:
“While the UK never actually saw a release of the Samsung Galaxy Note 7, which was initially pulled the day pre-released devices were destined to be sent to consumers, this whole saga highlights the dangers of faulty products.”
“Much like the shocking reports of tumble dryers catching fire, which are being investigated by MPs, the Note 7 saga could have had serious consequences and it’s surprising that reports of injuries from the device have been limited to a handful of cases.”
“Of course there is still a chance that these devices could cause serious harm, until all devices have been returned consumers are in danger of serious harm.”
“I would advise any users of the Note 7 that have not yet returned their device to do so as soon as possible.”
“For those that have suffered damages because of the faulty battery, whether this be a physical injury or damage to property – much like the jeep that caught fire because of a faulty Note 7 – there are grounds for a compensation claim under liability law.”
“In the UK there would be a number of legislation that would support a claim, including the Consumer Protection Act 1987, which would protect consumers from the faulty manufacturer – in this case Samsung; the Sale of Goods Act 1979, which could be used to file a claim against the retailer who supplied the handset to consumers; and the Consumer Credit Act 1974, which would apply to consumers who used a credit card to pay for their Note, as the credit card company would be jointly liable for the faulty device.”
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