Samsung Australia ordered to pay $9.7 million for misleading ads

Samsung Australia has been ordered by the Federal Court to pay a $14 million (about $9.7 million USD) fine for a misleading marketing campaign, as spotted by PhoneArena. The ads in question suggested that some of its water-resistant phones could be used in pools and at beaches, which Samsung’s own website advises against.

The ads ran between March 2016 and October 2018, depicting Galaxy A-series, S7-series, and S8-series phones. They’re all rated IP68, which means you can fully submerge them in water for an extended amount of time — in this case, up to 30 minutes to a depth of 1.5 meters (about five feet). But that protection only extends to freshwater — saltwater and chlorinated pool water are a different matter.

Samsung’s ads implied that it’s okay to take your phone surfing. It is not advisable to take your phone surfing.
Image: Australian Competition and Consumer Commission / Samsung Australia

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (or ACCC) took Samsung Australia to task on these claims in 2019, and the Federal Court is ordering Samsung to pay up. The ACCC’s chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb says that the organization reviewed hundreds of complaints from Galaxy owners who say their phones malfunctioned or stopped working altogether after being exposed to water. The weak link seems to be the charging port: if the phone is used in saltwater or chlorinated water and then charged before the port is totally dry, corrosion can occur.

It’s all a good reminder that even a strong waterproof rating like IP68 comes with certain limitations. Best to err on the side of caution before you believe something you see on TV and take a swim with your smartphone.

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