Samsung has always made a point of including an arbitration clause to ward off class-action lawsuits and other forms of retaliation from angry customers, but the US Supreme Court has just ruled that clause invalid because of the way that the company approached it. This means that Samsung can no longer force angry Galaxy buyers into arbitration on its terms through existing means, and must instead be prepared to face its customers in court, should an issue escalate that far. Currently, the arbitration clause is hidden inside of the boxes for Galaxy devices, meaning that users don't see it until they've bought the device. Presumably, this ruling means that the arbitration clause on all existing Galaxy handsets is invalid, and that Samsung will have to put the clause on the outside of the box in order to enforce it going forward.
The case originates from a pair of Galaxy owners who were not pleased with the performance of their devices over time, or the resale value that they could reap when getting rid of the old devices. The phones in question were a Galaxy S3 and Galaxy S4, somewhat recent devices that, by many accounts, are still perfectly viable today, at least for lighter users. Daniel Norcia and Hoai Dang of California were displeased with their Galaxy S4 and Galaxy S3, respectively, and each filed an individual class-action lawsuit, only to be met with the arbitration clause. They submitted claims that they were not made aware of the clause until it was too late, and Samsung's appeal in the California court system led to the case going to the Supreme Court. With the arbitration clause invalidated, both of the filed class-action suits will go through, pitting angered Galaxy S3 and Galaxy S4 owners en masse against Samsung.
Arbitration clauses are nothing new in the mobile world, though they are not terribly common. Still, this is one of the first cases where such a clause was challenged and defeated by angry customers. As such, this case may well set a precedent to make legal fine print more transparent before purchase, or perhaps even start a trend toward getting rid of arbitration clauses in favor of more versatile solutions for disputes between smartphone OEMs and their customers.