Samsung’s Biggest Problem Are Not Exploding Phones

The timing could not be worse: the iPhone 7 is hitting stores today. But Samsung’s botched response to the exploding Galaxy Note 7 compounded matters. The company issued a series of confusing messages since the problem was first identified, in a sequence the Wall Street Journal chronicled.

A statement on Samsung’s U.S. website on September 2 said that there were issues with the batteries. The note, however, did not identify the problem, nor did it advise customers to turn off their phones. Only a week later the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission issued an advisory on the matter. Two weeks and 92 exploding phones later, the company in conjunction with the CPSC issued a formal recall that affects between one and 2.5 million Galaxy Note 7 phones.

The U.S. is the largest market for Samsung’s smartphones so the company’s caution can be understandable. But it cannot be justified. Surely, the company will take a hit for the scale of the recall. Yet not owning up to the defective devices and its botched response magnified the problem.

“Consumers should immediately stop using and power down the recalled Galaxy Note 7 devices purchased before September 15th, 2016,” CPSC’s recommendation says. “Contact the wireless carrier, retail outlet, or Samsung.com where you purchased your device to receive free of charge a new Galaxy Note 7 with a different battery, a refund, or a new replacement device.”  This is the exact wording of what should have been said the first day. It would have saved consumers a lot of misery, and would have allowed Samsung greater damage control. No matter how painful, truth is always the best policy.

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