Samsung says that a number of its flagship smartphones have the IP68 certification for water resistance, which means they can sustain being underwater to a depth of up to 1.5 meters for about 30 minutes.
The ACCC went through over 300 advertisements, many of which depicted Galaxy phones being submerged in water bodies, including oceans and swimming pools. However, in reality, the Galaxy handsets cannot withstand all kinds of water, as Samsung’s itself cautions Galaxy S10 owners against using their phones in a beach or a pool on its website.
And even if you leave out the fact that water resistance only applies to fresh water, IP68 certified handsets are water resistant, and not waterproof, so you should ideally not be carrying them with you when you go underwater swimming, as Samsung likes to imply in its various advertisements on the television, social media networks, and billboards.
The ACCC says that Samsung’s misleading advertisements imply that the durability of its handsets will not be affected by exposure to water, which is not true. The watchdog also claims that the South Korean giant didn’t carry out sufficient testing to actually find out how the usable life of Galaxy phones will be impacted by their contact with water.
The phones that are a part of the ACCC’s complaint include phones from the Galaxy S10, S9, S8, and S7 series, as well as the Note 9, Note 8, Note 7 handsets, and the A8, A7, and A5 smartphones. All of these were manufactured between 2016 and 2019.
Samsung also charges a higher price for the phones it says are water resistant than the smartphones that are missing this feature. Moreover, IP68 certification is one of the factors that influence the decision of consumers. So, not only did Samsung prevented consumers from making an informed choice, but it also gained a competitive edge through its false advertisements. ACCC claims that on top of this, Samsung also rebuffed warranty claims from users whose handsets were damaged because of exposure to water.
Based on various estimates, Samsung’s market share in Australia is more than 20 percent and ACCC says that the company has sold over four million Galaxy smartphones in the country.
As a result of the case, Samsung might be slapped with a multi-million dollar fine and of course, it will probably have to pull the misleading ads. Moreover, if ACCC is successful in proving its point, it will be another PR disaster for the company, after the Galaxy Fold debacle and the 2016 Galaxy Note 7 fiasco.
However, the chaebol says that its advertisements comply with the Australian law and has decided to defend itself. The company also denied the claims that it doesn’t uphold its responsibilities related to the manufacturer warranty.
It remains to be seen if this case will set off a string of lawsuits in other countries and if this will have any impact on the sales of the company's phones, as water resistance is presumably one of the most important factors that dictate purchase decisions.