Oz watchdog claims Samsung's leak-proof phones ad campaign doesn't hold water

Legal proceedings launched over 'false, misleading and deceptive' representations

Samsung created "false, misleading and deceptive" representations in marketing material about the Galaxy smartphone range's resistance to water, according to a consumer watchdog down under.

The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) today launched legal proceedings against the world's largest mobile handsets maker relating to the S10e, S10, S10 Plus, S9, S9 Plus, S8, S8 Plus, S7, S7 Edge, Note 9, Note 8, Note 7, A8, A7 and A5 manufactured between 2016 and 2019.

Samsung sold some four million of these devices in Oz during that time frame, the ACCC said.

The independent body called out adverts that in the last three and a bit years claimed the phones are resistant to the wet stuff and portrayed folk using the phones while surfing or frolicking in swimming pools.

Samsung Galaxy ad screenshot

Yeah, maybe don't actually do this?

The 300 ads – which appeared on social media, online, TV, billboards, brochures and other forms of media – also claimed that the Galaxy could be dunked in up to 1.5 metres of water for 30 minutes.

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"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 pool, and would not be affected by such exposure to water for the life of the phone, when this was not the case," said chair Rod Sims.

"Samsung's advertisements, we believe, denied consumers an informed choice and gave Samsung an unfair competitive advantage. Samsung showed the Galaxy phones used in stations they shouldn't be to attract customers."

The consumer group said Samsung had no rights to make the leak-proof claims because:

  • It "did not test or know of testing" that demonstrated how sending the device for a dip would impact its "usable life";
  • Samsung "held the view" that using the phones in "liquid other than water" could damage them. The ACCC highlighted admissions on Sammy's website that the Galaxy S10 was "not advised for beach or pool use";
  • The company dismissed warranty claims from users who found their phones impaired after use in water.
Samsung's Twitter account promoting water resistance

Samsung's Australian Twitter account promoting water resistance

"Aside from not having a reasonable basis, the ACCC also claims that the representations are false, misleading and deceptive, because the Galaxy phones were not suitable for use in all types of water, and the life of the phones could or would likely be adversely affected if used in water," the watchdog added.

Samsung Galaxy magazine ad

Why not take your Galaxy surfing?

Sims claimed Samsung was aware that water resistance was a differentiating factor in the phone purchasing decision of Aussies. The ACCC further said Sammy charged a higher premium for phones that were advertised as having the ability to keep out water.

The ACCC is launching the court battle (PDF) in the pursuit of "penalties, consumer redress orders, injunctions, declaration, publication orders, an order as to findings of fact, and costs".

Samsung Galaxy magazine ad

From the safety of the poolside

Samsung also made similar claims of water resistance to 50m about its Galaxy Watch. The latest drama won't be welcomed by Samsung, whose Note 7 phone was previously dogged with bad press about its internal combustion engine.

The Register has asked Samsung to comment. ®

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