Samsung accused of misleading customers on Galaxy S 'water resistance'

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission claims Samsung's phones aren't as waterproof as advertised.

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Samsung's flagship phones have been advertised as IP68 water resistant since 2016.

Josh Miller/CNET

An Australian government watchdog agency is taking Samsung to court over claims that the company's Galaxy phones are safe to take in the water.

In 2016 Samsung released its first IP68 water-resistant phone, the Galaxy S7. All of the electronics giant's flagship  phones have since carried the IP68 certification for water resistance and have been advertised as water-friendly phones. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) says this amounts to false advertising.

There are two key components to the ACCC's issue with Samsung. First, Samsung's advertising indicated that submerging a Galaxy phone under 1.5 meters (about 5 feet) of water for 30 minutes or less wouldn't impact the device over the course of its lifetime. Second, Samsung advertised phones being used in beaches and pools, even though the IP68 certification only applies to fresh water. 

ACCC reviewed over 300 Samsung ads as the basis for its claims, it said.  

IP68 certified phones are technically water-resistant, not waterproof, and specifically for depths up to 1.5 meters and for 30 minutes or under. IP67 phones, like 2014's Galaxy S5, are resistant for 30 minutes or less for depths of 1 meter or less, but ACCC specifically referred to phones marketed from 2016 on. 

The ACCC claims that Samsung has rebuffed warranty claims by customers who say their phones were damaged by water exposure. The watchdog also notes that Samsung's own website claims the Galaxy S10, its early-2019 flagship phone, is "not advised for beach or pool use." 

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

"Samsung showed the Galaxy phones used in situations they shouldn't be to attract customers," Mr Sims said.

For its part, Samsung says it has noted ACCC's accusations and plans to defend itself in court.

"Samsung stands by its marketing and advertising of the water resistancy of its smartphones," the company said in a statement. "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. Customer satisfaction is a top priority for Samsung and we are committed to acting in the best interest of our customers." 

Photos from the iPhone XR and Galaxy S10E

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