Samsung is getting sued in Australia for ‘misleading’ Galaxy phone ads

Samsung Galaxy S7 | Image credit: Samsung (Image credit: Samsung)

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is taking South Korean electronics giant Samsung to court, alleging the smartphone maker has misled consumers about the water resistance of Galaxy handsets.

According to the ACCC, "Samsung has widely advertised on social media, online, TV, billboards, brochures and other media that the Galaxy phones are water resistant and depicted them being used in, or exposed to, oceans and swimming pools."

This depiction, says the watchdog, is false advertising and wrongly represents Galaxy phones as being "suitable for use in, or for exposure to, all types of water, including in ocean water and swimming pools".

The ACCC isn't claiming that Samsung's handsets are not water resistant – its beef seems to be with the way the Korean company has advertised its wares and the implied degree of waterproofing they provide.

For example, an ad in Australia for the Samsung Galaxy A5 shows a surfer breaking through a wave, while another ad for the Samsung Galaxy S7 has two people jumping into a pool fully clothed.

While many of the Galaxy phones, including the Galaxy S and Galaxy A series, are capable of withstanding water to varying levels depending on their IP rating, the ACCC isn't happy with the fact the fine print on website claims the Samsung Galaxy S10 phones have only been tested in "fresh water" conditions.

An ad for the Samsung Galaxy A5 | Image: Samsung

An ad for the Samsung Galaxy A5 | Image: Samsung (Image credit: Samsung)

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To bolster its case, the ACCC will be relying on over 300 ads published on different platforms since 2016 that show the phones in different aquatic environments, including salt water and swimming pools, with the watchdog alleging that Samsung has no basis to make those depictions.

The ACCC has also noted that some of Samsung’s phones are sold at higher prices because of their IP ratings. For example, the high-end Galaxy S10e includes water resistance and sells for AU$1,199, whereas the cheaper AU$399 Galaxy J8 lacks any official water resistance rating.

With over four million Galaxy phones already sold in Australia, the ACCC is worried that purchasers weren't able to make a fully informed choice, as the ads were designed to attract attention without providing sufficient information. This, the watchdog claims, has given Samsung an "unfair competitive advantage" in the market.

For its part, Samsung is standing by its marketing material, and says it will defend itself when the case comes up in the Australian Federal Court.

Sharmishta Sarkar
Managing Editor (APAC)

While she's happiest with a camera in her hand, Sharmishta's main priority is being TechRadar's APAC Managing Editor, looking after the day-to-day functioning of the Australian, New Zealand and Singapore editions of the site, steering everything from news and reviews to ecommerce content like deals and coupon codes. While she loves reviewing cameras and lenses when she can, she's also an avid reader and has become quite the expert on ereaders and E Ink writing tablets, having appeared on Singaporean radio to talk about these underrated devices. Other than her duties at TechRadar, she's also the Managing Editor of the Australian edition of Digital Camera World, and writes for Tom's Guide and T3.