back to article Samsung fined $14 million for misleading smartphone water resistance claims

Australia’s Competition and Consumer Commission has fined Samsung Electronics AU$14 million ($9.6 million) for making for misleading water resistance claims about 3.1 million smartphones. The Commission (ACCC) says that between 2016 and 2018 Samsung advertised its Galaxy S7, S7 Edge, A5, A7, S8, S8 Plus and Note 8 smartphones …

  1. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

    I propose a new law

    Anything not covered by warranty doesn't exist. Advertisements and specification sheets for electronics will get a lot shorter.

    Moisture exposure turns a dot red and voids the warranty? It's not waterproof. A little bump breaks the glass and it's not covered? It's not a durable phone. 5G not guaranteed to work? It's not a 5G phone.

    1. John D'oh!

      Re: I propose a new law

      You're gonna put millions of grifters/marketing people out of work. A few of them will become technical writers I suppose, but the majority of them are incorrigible.

      1. Kevin Johnston

        Re: I propose a new law

        You say that as though it is a bad thing

    2. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

      Re: I propose a new law

      "Moisture exposure turns a dot red and voids the warranty? It's not waterproof. A little bump breaks the glass and it's not covered? It's not a durable phone. 5G not guaranteed to work? It's not a 5G phone."

      Define 'moisture', 'exposure', 'red', 'waterproof', 'bump', 'break', 'durability', '5G' and 'coverage'.

      Not defending Samsung here because I f*ing hate them with a passion, but if manufacturers weren't allowed to make "within reasonable expectations" claims in their marketing material, then we could expect that the terms and conditions of warranty would need to be delivered by a forklift as EVERY single possible convolution of every single term would need to be legally defined. Which would put the price of a phone up into the tens of thousands, just to pay the lawyers.

      1. Dafyd Colquhoun

        Re: I propose a new law

        The problem was that Samsung promoted the phones with activities that were specifically excluded in the fine print. Bit like showing how tough it was by driving over it with a steam roller and then having "* cannot be driven over" in the fine print. Sea water and chlorinated water were excluded, but were the only water shown. It's about as black and white as you can get here. Hence a few million reasons for them to think about their ad campaigns

        1. DS999 Silver badge

          Re: I propose a new law

          Yes I agree, the problem was not with their actual claims in writing but with what they showed in the ads directly contradicting what they said in writing.

          What the original poster wants though is ridiculous, and would result in companies being unable to make any claims or publish any specs, because there are always conditions for just about any claim.

          I mean, you could publish immutable specs like the size, weight, and number of pixels, but pretty much anything else is subject to change depending on usage conditions. Heck, even RAM and NAND would probably be hit because "not all 6GB are available to apps, they should have listed only what's left after the OS takes its share".

          1. heyrick Silver badge

            Re: I propose a new law

            "they should have listed only what's left after the OS takes its share"

            Yes. And include the half gigabyte that it freaks out if isn't there (seriously, if my S9 has less than half a gigabyte free, it starts shutting things down - WTF?).

    3. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      Re: I propose a new law

      These moisture indicators turn red when phone is used in a humid environment, so they are pretty useless. More like a vehicle to weasel out of responsibilities.

      1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

        Re: I propose a new law

        "These moisture indicators turn red when phone is used in a humid environment, so they are pretty useless."

        The inside of most modern phones is a sealed space and not impacted by external humidity in any meaningful way. Using the phone in a humid environment will not change them.

        1. DS999 Silver badge

          Re: I propose a new law

          Just for the heck of it I checked my 11 Pro Max and my girlfriend's 13 Pro and neither indicated moisture exposure.

          I regularly go on bike rides with my phone mounted on the handlebars, and there have been a few times when I've been hit with a torrential downpour before I made it home since during summer months in the midwest storms can pop up out of nowhere.

          As far as I know she's never got hers properly wet like mine but she leaves it sitting on the bathroom counter when she takes scaldingly hot showers that would melt the skin off any normal human and fog up the bathroom like San Francisco at dawn because the exhaust fan can't keep up.

          FWIW the indicator on both phones is inside the SIM slot. Neither of us has a SIM card (using eSIM) just the tray/cover. Not truly a "sealed" space though I guess the SIM tray/cover forms a good enough seal to keep water and humidity out unless it is damaged.

        2. Gene Cash Silver badge

          Re: I propose a new law

          Nope. I had a phone (don't remember the brand) sent to me by work. It arrived in a clear plastic retail package (inside the shipping box of course) and I could easily see the moisture indicator on the back was a bright red.

          I refused the phone and refused to open the box, which led to quite the kerfluffle. Nobody could understand my objections.

    4. DS999 Silver badge

      Re: I propose a new law

      So companies won't be able to claim much of anything about their products, and it will be impossible to comparison shop because there will be almost nothing in the way of published specs - why list your CPU's frequency when it runs at a lower frequency when it gets too hot? Why list your battery life when that figure is only under a certain set of test conditions, and only valid on a brand new battery, etc.

      You really think companies have the ability to make things that are 100% waterproof for all values of "water" displays that are impossible to break, 5G that works everywhere - even where there isn't any 5G - and so on?

      They have to put in disclaimers about 5G not working everywhere or someone idiot will try to start a class action lawsuit because 5G doesn't work on the subway, and they need moisture indicators because phones are water resistant (no one is marketing a water "proof" phone) in down to a given number of feet, fresh water not salt water, etc. and people will lie about what happened when trying to make a warranty claim.

    5. Headley_Grange Silver badge

      Re: I propose a new law

      I'd flip it. The headlines, advertising and marketing bumf issued by the company take precedence over any other wording in contracts, Ts&Cs, sales terms and warranties. The bigger the font, the higher the priority. So if the ad has a picture of the phone in a glass of beer and the headline "D(r)UNK-PROOF" and some small wording at the bottom of the pic. saying that you could only dunk it in beer for 18nano seconds and then dry it our for 3 days before using it then the big words would be assumed to be the more correct. Anyone who knacked their phone by drowning it in beer would have a valid claim and no amount of weasel words would prevent them getting a refund or a new phone.

    6. Johnb89

      Re: I propose a new law

      So indeed apple (https://support.apple.com/en-gb/HT204104) calls their phones waterproof, but if the LCI is red then you aren't covered under warranty. That's an absolute contradiction between marketing and legal terms.

      There is always the option of throwing it at the front window of the shop when it stops working and they point out the warranty exclusion, which sounds fun. Not that one should ever do that, of course.

  2. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    Experience

    I remember taking my S9 for a swim in Caribbean. Phone stopped working until it completely dried the next day.

    Phone didn't dissolve in the water, so it was waterproof to an extent - I can give credit for that.

    1. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: Experience

      I live in an old stone house that has a fairly high humidity level (as in, stainless steel rusts).

      In the winter, the S9 sometimes tells me it is refusing to charge until the USB port is dry. Which is usually a translation for "find a toothpick and clear out the accumulated fluff".

  3. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    Sagsmug doing Sagsmug things.

  4. BOFH in Training Bronze badge

    Used to have a Note 8

    Used to have a Note 8 which joined me in swimming pools (didn't bring it in deep, maybe 1m depth while I was swimming / floating on the surface) and waterfalls (with water pelting you feeling like a brick, was surprised the phone handled it well, taking pics and videos while in the falls itself). I recall that the touch screen did not work well when it was wet / in the water, but was all good after dried.

    Was tempted by the beach but decided not to risk it.

    Worked fine after pools and waterfalls without issues. Did not notice any corrosion either.

    If you tried to charge while the USB port was wet, I recall there was an error and you had to wait till it gets fully dry.

  5. big_D Silver badge

    Common sense...

    Okay, Samsung didn't say that you needed to dry out the phone before plugging in the charger, but common sense tells you that water and electricity don't mix.

    You'd have to be pretty dumb to try plugging a charger into a wet hole.

    Do companies really need to protect themselves from people who bunked off elementary-school science classes? Heck this is something that my parents taught me before I went to school and my step-daughter and her husband are busy teaching their 2 year old!

    1. Snapper Bronze badge

      Re: Common sense...

      As an IT consultant I can assure you that most people nowadays know jack-shit about technology.

      I've been asked to make a visit and change a fuse in a UK plug and bleed a radiator in a large room full of 160 millennials who had no fornicating idea!

      1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

        Re: Common sense...

        To be fair I'm pushing 60 and have never needed to bleed a radiator. I'm sure I could given a quick Google, but I wouldn't immediately know how to do it.

        1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

          Re: Common sense...

          Never mind knowing how. I suspect a great many yoof of today don't even know it's possible or why it'd be necessary.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Common sense...

            I suspect a great many yoof of today don't even know it's possible or why it'd be necessary.

            Not only that, they'd be asking why you need to let blood out of a central heating system, and will it need a sticking plaster afterwards...

        2. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

          Re: Common sense...

          Incredible. Downvotes for saying I don’t know how to do something. There really are some pricks on this site.

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: Common sense...

            It's not like you're new here ... why the sudden angst?

            1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

              Re: Common sense...

              I guess I just expected better from Reg readers. 99% of the time I don't have a problem with downvotes; I have some controversial views on Apple for example, which always get their share of downvotes.

              Having a different opinion and expressing it with a downvote is absolutely fine and I respect that. Downvoting someone for saying they don't know how to do something however is not 'having a different opinion', it's 'being a twat'. And I'd hoped that people here were better than that.

      2. Richard 12 Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: Common sense...

        Millenials are 40 now. Just so you know.

        That said, millenials were probably the last generation to be taught how to fit a UK plug, as all new consumer appliances must come with the plug fitted since 1994. (I recall doing this blindfolded, only permitted to ask the colour)

        Gen Z onwards may never have needed to, and of course many modern appliances have wallwarts so no replaceable plugtop fuse at all.

        1. big_D Silver badge

          Re: Common sense...

          When I moved to Germany, I changed all the plugs on my electrical appliances. My German friends were shocked that I did it myself and didn’t get an electrician in to do it.

        2. heyrick Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: Common sense...

          "Millenials are 40 now."

          Looks at Wikipedia... Phew, missed that. I'm sort of middle X. So I get to watch Stranger Things and yup, remember that. And that. Liked that song. Uh-huh...

          But best of all, got a childhood when computers were discrete processor (6502), parallel chip (6522), serial chip (6551), memory chips, and a ton of logic gates (74blahblah), plus ran at clock speeds well within the range of a school oscilloscope. I can't help but think modern kids writing Python or dragging and dropping icons lose a lot in the total disconnect between what they are doing and what the machine is actually doing. When you're writing stuff in hand crafted assembler to which you've counted cycles, you're understanding the machine on its own terms. And acutely aware of how it does what it does.

          Good times.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Common sense...

            "lose a lot in the total disconnect between what they are doing and what the machine is actually doing."

            True. Then again, even many of us grey-beards aren't aware that an "X86" CPU is a RISC chip emulating X86 instructions in microcode. The disconnect is getting deeper.

      3. heyrick Silver badge

        Re: Common sense...

        Don't they still sell that epic huge book of Reader's Digest "How to fix everything"?

        Failing that, can't they just look on YouTube?

        Sounds like the issue isn't so much a lack of knowledge, but a lack of giving enough of a shit to even find out.

        1. big_D Silver badge

          Re: Common sense...

          LOL, mine is still sitting on the shelf behind me. Came as an unwanted package, they never collected it.

    2. DS999 Silver badge

      Re: Common sense...

      With all the conspiracy theories floating around and science denialism in general are you really surprised?

      Between that, and all the safety features like GFCI that make "water and electricity don't mix" no longer have the deadly consequences it once did, it isn't shocking (sorry couldn't resist)

      This is a generation where people have been fooled into putting their phone into a microwave for "fast wireless charging", after all.

      1. MrDamage Silver badge

        Re: Common sense...

        You forgot about them also drilling a hole in the case to access the "hidden" 3.5mm headphone jack.

  6. QUADRANTDIONYSUS
    Alert

    It worked good enough...

    I took my Note 8 into the pool regularly. You did need to allow it to dry thoroughly before you could charge it with a cord. I usually rinsed it off with demineralized water when I got out of the pool, and usually it could be charged in 3 to 4 hours. If you needed charge sooner, QI charging did work. I was even brave enough to take it into salt water. There are a couple of videos on YT that I shot in the water at Port Aransas. I think the port being damaged was due to poor charger design and/or failure to follow on-screen warnings about contamination in the charge port.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: It worked good enough...

      I have to ask. WHY did you take your phone into the pool regularly? Is their an app for measuring your swimming distance and speed or were those Facebook updates really so unmissable? :-)

      The fact you then made sure you had and used de-mineralised water to wash it afterwards does seem to imply a good enough reason to go that extra effort. I just can't think what it might be.

  7. EricB123 Bronze badge

    Mystery Solved

    So that's why my S7 sounded an alarm when I tried to recharge it after it fell into a full sink while I was shaving. I let it dry overnight, then it recharged fine. I guess my S7 contained the "fix"

  8. GrahamRJ

    No problems here

    I've been using a Samsung S5 Neo for the last 5 years, and it's been exposed to all sorts of walking weather and beach holidays. The USB port needed to dry out before you could use it for charging, but that's all. Otherwise it was pretty bombproof. It's finally given in (the phone is OK but the GPS is dead, and the version of Android stops some stuff working), so I've moved to a Samsung Xcover Pro which I expect will do another 5 years.

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