The competition watchdog said that Samsung has widely marketed its Galaxy phones as being water-resistant and depicting them being either used in or near swimming pools and the ocean, claiming water resistance of up to 1.5 metres depth for half an hour.
However, the ACCC is sceptical of the claims, suggesting they are misleading for consumers.
“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 pools, and would not be affected by such exposure to water for the life of the phone, when this was not the case,” the regulator’s chair, Rod Sims, said in a statement.
“Samsung itself has acknowledged that water resistance is an important factor influencing Australian consumer decisions when they choose what mobile phone to purchase.
“[But] Samsung’s advertisements, we believe, denied consumers an informed choice and gave Samsung an unfair competitive advantage.”
At the heart of the ACCC’s action are allegations that Samsung did not test, or sufficiently test, how exposure to water, including sea water and chlorinated water, affected the usable life of the phone, and doing so could be damaging.
It said this was particularly pertinent given that Samsung’s website states that its Galaxy S10 phone is “not advised for beach or pool use”.
The regulator also alleged that Samsung has denied warranty claims for water damage to the phones.
“Samsung showed the Galaxy phones used in situations they shouldn’t be to attract customers,” Mr Sims said.
“Under the Australian Consumer Law, businesses cannot mislead consumers about their products’ capabilities.”
According to the ACCC, Samsung has sold more than 4 million of its Galaxy phones in Australia.
It said its case involves more than 300 different advertisements, including on television, social media and online, product brochures and other media, that have been used since early 2016.
The models involved in the legal action were manufactured between 2016 and 2019, and include the:
- S10 Plus
- S9 Plus
- S8 Plus
- S7 Edge
- Note 9
- Note 8
- Note 7
Samsung said it stands by its product and would defend the legal action.
“Samsung stands by its marketing and advertising of the water resistancy of its smartphones. We are also confident that we provide customers with free-of-charge remedies in a manner consistent with Samsung’s obligations under its manufacturer warranty and the Australian Consumer Law,” it said in a statement.
“Customer satisfaction is a top priority for Samsung and we are committed to acting in the best interest of our customers.”