The company learns the difference between ‘waterproof’ and ‘water-resistant’ the hard way
How much attention do you pay to your phone’s waterproofing? You may know that it carries an “IP” rating, but just how much protection does that confer? Some phones can handle a splash or two, while others can tolerate full immersion — and users aren’t always aware of the difference between water-resistant and waterproof. Ideally, smartphone manufacturers would do their best to educate shoppers about all these distinctions, but now Samsung is finding itself in hot water (no pun intended) over a misleading marketing campaign that gave users the impression their phones were more water-resistant than they actually are.
Samsung Australia ran a series of nine ads across its social platforms and online stores between March 2016 and October 2018, which showed phones like the Galaxy S7, S7 Edge, A5 (2017), A7 (2017), S8, S8 Plus, and Note 8 as being suitable for use in pools and seawater. While an IP68 rating does allow for submersion up to a maximum depth of 1.5 meters for up to thirty minutes, that’s for freshwater, whereas pools and seawater contain dissolved chemicals that promote corrosion. And if users charge their phones while still wet, there’s an increased risk of damage to the port — something that Samsung has now acknowledged.
Considering a total of 3.1 million of the aforementioned Galaxy phones were sold in Australia, there’s a good chance that multiple customers took Samsung for its word, put a little too much trust in their devices, took them for a swim, and ended up with damaged units. The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission notes that it reviewed hundreds of reports about issues with Galaxy phones after they were exposed to water. In some cases, they even stopped working entirely.
Taking all this into account, Samsung Australia has been ordered to pay a hefty fine of AU$14 million (around $9.6 million) for all its misleading marketing. Really, the company got off easy here, as new rules would have exposed it to even greater penalties if this had happened at a later date. Will Samsung face similar fallout in other nations? So far, we haven’t heard of any other efforts mirroring the ACCC’s investigation, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be more trouble in the future.