Regulator Launches Samsung Phone Recall

Consumer advocates question the company's initial response to the problems with its new Galaxy Note 7 smartphones.
Matthew HellerSeptember 16, 2016

With research data showing initial warnings have not discouraged use of Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has announced a formal recall of the fire-prone devices.

Samsung itself launched an international recall Sept. 2 of 5 million units of the new high-end Note 7 and has told consumers not to use it at all. The phone has been plagued with reports of overheating and exploding batteries.

But according to mobile analytics firm Apteligent, about 87% of Note 7s were still actively being used as late as Wednesday despite the largest recall in the history of the smartphone industry. Consumer Reports has found some stores and carriers in the U.S. were still selling the phones days after Samsung announced its recall.

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On Thursday, the CPSC announced a recall of 1 million Note 7s purchased before Sept. 15, saying owners “should immediately … power down” the model. Users can receive free of charge a new Galaxy Note 7 with a different battery, a refund or a new replacement device.

“The recall is an embarrassing comedown for Samsung, an icon of South Korean innovation that accounts for one-fifth of the country’s exports,” The New York Times said.

It has also raised questions about whether Samsung’s rush to take back the phones confused consumers. “Samsung made an announcement, but the government wasn’t involved, there wasn’t a clear message, there wasn’t an approved remedy and there wasn’t a clear fix,” Jennifer Shecter, a spokeswoman for Consumer Reports, told the Times.

The CPSC requires companies to notify it of defects and coordinate public notification of recalls. The commission also asks manufacturers to work with it to determine how to notify customers and how defective products can be replaced or returned.

But the Times noted that in announcing its recall on Sept. 2, Samsung issued a news release by itself.

“I will say as a general matter that it’s not a recipe for a successful recall for a company to go out on its own,” CPSC Chairman Elliott F. Kaye said.