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Samsung phones aren’t as water-resistant as it says, claims regulator

Samsung is facing court action over claims made in its phone ads. Devices involved in the case include the Galaxy S10, S9, and S8.

Published onJuly 4, 2019

Samsung Galaxy S7 water resistance advertising.

Samsung has been charged with misleading advertising in Australia over claims regarding its Galaxy smartphones. The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) announced it was taking Samsung to court today in a press release (h/t CNET), accusing the South Korean manufacturer of deceiving consumers with its smartphone water-resistance claims.

Many of Samsung’s recent Galaxy phones (since the Galaxy S7 in 2016) have supported IP68 certification for dust and water resistance. This stipulates the devices can be submerged in 1.5 meters of freshwater for 30 minutes without sustaining damage.

However, the ACCC — whose role is to uphold competition and advertising standards — says Samsung has exaggerated these capabilities in its promotions, indicating devices could be safely used in swimming pools or in the ocean.

Further, the ACCC claims Samsung didn’t sufficiently test or understand how water affected its phones across their lifetime, and also that Samsung denied warranty claims from Galaxy owners whose phones have been water-damaged.

Samsung Galaxy water resistance advertising.

The ACCC reviewed more than 300 Samsung adverts for the case. If Samsung is found guilty in this regard, Reuters says each offending promotion after September 1 2018 could attract a fine of up to 10 million Australian dollars (~$7 million).

Phones subject to the case include the Galaxy S10e, S10, S10 Plus, S9, S9 Plus, S8, S8 Plus, S7, S7 Edge, Note 9, Note 8, Note 7, A8, A7, and A5.

Samsung guilty as charged?

There’s no question Samsung suggested its phones could be used around non-fresh water — its ads have imagery of a people using Galaxy phones at the swimming pool and at the beach. All the while, an official Samsung Galaxy S10 web page says the IP68-rated phone is “Not advised for beach or pool use.”

But advertising is a nuanced business: companies can stretch the truth a fair degree without landing in trouble. The humble burger ad is a famous example — nobody in the history of the world ever received a burger that looks like it does in fast food advertising, yet these ads persist (I recommend some of the how-it’s-mades on YouTube if you’re interested in that topic).

Samsung Galaxy water resistance advertising.

While it may look like Samsung is going to pay for this, I wouldn’t be so sure; it will have plenty of people dedicated to keeping it out of this kind of trouble. According to Reuters, Samsung has already said it stands by its advertising and intends to defend the case.

Regardless, if you do own a Samsung phone — or any IP68-rated smartphone for that matter — you shouldn’t let it go near pool water or the sea. It may survive a quick plunge, but it certainly isn’t built for those environments.

What’s your take on the matter? Let me know in the comments.

Read next: How to fix a water-damaged phone

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