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Samsung fined $14 million for false waterproof phone claims

Samsung Australia has been smacked with a massive $14 million fine after incorrectly advertising the water resistance of multiple Samsung Galaxy smartphones.

The Australian Federal Court handed down the verdict last week, in response to proceedings instituted against Samsung by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

The case concerned Samsung’s marketing of seven Galaxy devices between 2016 and 2018, in a series of ads that showcased the phones being submerged in pool or sea water despite none of the handsets being suitably waterproof.

Samsung makes ‘misleading’ ad claims

The ACCC first initiated proceedings in 2019, after investigating complaints from customers who had purchased Galaxy smartphones after viewing the misleading advertising. The Commission initially targeted more than 300 Samsung advertisements for a larger selection of phones, including the Samsung Galaxy S10 series; however, last week’s settlement addresses nine ads that were shown both in Samsung stores and online, including on the Samsung Australia website and across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

These ads showed seven specific devices — the Samsung Galaxy S7, Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, Samsung Galaxy S8, Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus, Samsung Galaxy Note 8, Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017), and the Samsung Galaxy A7 (2017) — being used in or around oceans and pools, with an accompanying claim that each phone was water resistant in up to 1.5 metres of water for 30 minutes.

The ACCC found these ads to be misleading, and that Samsung Australia did not have a ‘reasonable basis’ for representing the above devices as being suitable for use in all types of water. According to the ACCC, Samsung was aware that its phone could be damaged from exposure to salt water or chlorine, and the company also denied warranty claims from customers with water-damaged devices.

“Samsung Australia’s ads promoting its Galaxy phones featured people using their phones in pools and sea water, despite the fact that this could ultimately result in significant damage to the phone,” said ACCC Chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb.

 

Twitter ad for Samsung phone
Image: ACCC

 

Samsung Australia has since agreed that there was a possibility that the advertised Galaxy phones could be damaged if a customer attempted to charge their device after exposing it to water. This is due to the presence of moisture in the charging port, which could cause the port to become corroded.

The company has since admitted to breaching Australian Consumer Law by making misleading claims in its advertising. Samsung was well aware of the charging port issues at the time of the advertising campaigns; in fact, each of the seven included Galaxy phones would display a warning message on-screen if customers attempted to charge their device while water was still in the port.

With Samsung now acknowledging that its marketing was misleading, the brand has now agreed to pay out the $14 million in penalties as ordered by the Federal Court.

“Samsung values the work of the ACCC and has cooperated with the Commission in order to narrow its concerns and to bring the proceeding to an end,” said Samsung Australia in a statement.

“Samsung endeavours to deliver the best possible experience to all its customers. Samsung regrets if any Galaxy users have experienced an issue with their device as a result of the matters covered by this case.”

Is my Samsung Galaxy phone waterproof?

Samsung’s fine relates to just seven models in its extensive portfolio, all of which were released prior to 2018. You can’t buy any of these devices new in 2022, although you may happen to pick up a refurbished or second-hand model from eBay or smaller sellers.

All of the affected Galaxy smartphones come with an IP68 rating, which is an international standard that classifies the water and dust resistance of devices. IP68-certified phones can be submerged in up to 1.5 metres of fresh water for up to 30 minutes, and are deemed capable of withstanding dust, dirt and sand; however, they still shouldn’t be used in or around sea water or chlorinated pools.

The majority of high-end smartphones carry an IP68 rating, including the iPhone 13 series, the Google Pixel 6 range, and Samsung’s newest flagship Samsung Galaxy S22 line. Less expensive phones may also come with IP67 certification, which means that the device can be submerged in up to one metre of fresh water for 30 minutes. Both IP67 and IP68 phones are resistant to dust and dirt.

If you’re buying a new phone in 2022, there’s a good chance that your new handset will be IP67 or IP68 certified — but this doesn’t mean you can get careless when you’re lounging by the pool. While your device may survive getting caught in the rain, it’s not as resistant to extended periods under water, or exposure to salt water or chemicals (and liquid damage may not be covered by your phone’s warranty).

An IP68-rating is a great feature, but it doesn’t make your phone 100% waterproof. If you do own one of the seven Galaxy devices mentioned in the ACCC’s submission, and have experienced water damage, the ACCC encourages you to contact Samsung Australia for more information.

Compare Samsung Galaxy S22 phones

Samsung Galaxy S22 Plans

The following table shows selected published 24-month plans for the Samsung Galaxy S22 on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of standard monthly cost, from the lowest to highest and then by data allowance, largest to smallest. Use our tool for mobile phone plan comparison to see a wider range of plans from other providers. This is a selection of products with links to a referral partner.

Samsung Galaxy S22+ Plans

The following table shows selected published 24-month plans for the Samsung Galaxy S22+ on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of standard monthly cost, from the lowest to highest and then by data allowance, largest to smallest. Use our tool for mobile phone plan comparison to see a wider range of plans from other providers. This is a selection of products with links to a referral partner.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra Plans

The following table shows selected published 24-month plans for the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of standard monthly cost, from the lowest to highest and then by data allowance, largest to smallest. Use our tool for mobile phone plan comparison to see a wider range of plans from other providers. This is a selection of products with links to a referral partner.

Main image: Samsung

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