ACCC to confront Samsung over water-resistant phone ads

Samsung Galaxy S7

Samsung Galaxy S7

The local competition regulator is going to be taking Samsung to court over the way the tech company advertise the water the resistance of their Galaxy smartphones.

As per a media release by the ACCC, "Samsung has widely advertised on social media, online, TV, billboards, brochures and other media that the Galaxy phones are water resistant and depicted them being used in, or exposed to, oceans and swimming pools."

The regulator say this practice extends back as far as February 2016 and that their case involves involves over different 300 advertisements.

“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,” says ACCC Chair Rod Sims.

At this stage, it looks like the ACCC isn't concerned with whether or not Samsung's device's live up to their water resistance capabilities but is with how Samsung's advertisements represented that water resistance.

The S10e, S10, S10 Plus, S9, S9 Plus, S8, S8 Plus, S7, S7 Edge, Note 9, Note 8, Note 7, A8, A7, and A5 are all named here. These devices have IP-ratings which indicate their degree of water resistance. For example, a rating of IP56 means that the device has been tested to offer partial protection against dust and other particulates and low-pressure jets of directed water from any angle with no harmful effects or impacts on device performance.

Samsung and other smartphone vendors tend to base their water resistance claims on this testing process. For example, the S10 has an IP rating of 8. Though this is the highest rating for water resistance currently allowed, it only means that Samsung's hardware underwent the requisite testing - being submerged at a depth of 1.5 meters for thirty minutes - and that it still worked afterwards.

The ACCC refute this, claiming that it did not test or know of sufficient testing about how exposing a Galaxy phone to water, specifically non-fresh water, affected its usable life.

This is problematic for Samsung because, according to the ACCC, a lot of their advertisements for these devices involved using them in environments that Samsung themselves admit aren't covered by the IP-rating testing process, such as beaches or pools.

Essentially, Sims says that "Samsung showed the Galaxy phones used in situations they shouldn’t be to attract customers.” 

“Samsung’s advertisements, we believe, denied consumers an informed choice and gave Samsung an unfair competitive advantage,” he says.

Filing proceedings in the Federal Court against Samsung earlier today, the ACCC is seeking penalties, consumer redress orders, injunctions, declarations, publication orders, an order as to findings of fact, and costs.

Samsung Australia say that they intend to defend themselves in court against the charges brought by the ACCC. 

In a statement to media, the company say that "Samsung stands by its marketing and advertising of the water resistancy of its smartphones. 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."

"Customer satisfaction is a top priority for Samsung and we are committed to acting in the best interest of our customers."

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Fergus Halliday
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