Alongside the Note 7 and an Australian washer recall, it has been a stormy Q3
On the heels of its Note 7 recall, Samsung is now also recalling 2.8 million washing machines sold in the US since 2011. This follows a lawsuit filed in the US by consumers that the machines were likely to explode and send components flying across the room while spinning clothes’ loads.
The company’s response to this has been faster and clearer than with its combustible smartphone batteries, but further undercuts its brand image. In it are echoes, or more accurately, presentiments, of a recall in Australia that has forced the company to take additional steps since it began in 2013.
Three years on, repairs are failing to fix the known fire hazards, regulators are dissatisfied with the explanations they’ve been given, and many machines have gone unreturned while consumers continue to use them despite the danger.
Now in the US, “The washing machine top can unexpectedly detach from the washing machine, chassis during use,” according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), “posing a risk of injury from impact.”
The recall encompasses 34 different top-loading washers Samsung has sold in North American markets. A full list of the affected devices and their model numbers is available on the CPSC website.
Consumers have the option of in-home repairs, a refund, or a rebate: “Consumers should only use the delicate or waterproof cycles when washing bedding, water-resistant and bulky items” if they need to wash anything in the meantime.
The Australian experience
In 2013, Samsung had to recall six washing machine models sold in Australia due to dozens of reported fires resulting from water condensation on the internal motor connection. This impacted fewer devices than the US recall, though: only 144,451 units, rather than millions.
The recall has been going on for over three years, but 27,000 units, or 19%, have not yet been checked by Samsung. These units continue to fail. However, repaired machines have also suffered from the same problem, again, as well as other mechanical faults that render them unusable. The repairs procedure has come under criticism as well, with consumers complaining that the fix does not leave them with much confidence in the safety of the machines.
Now, 32,000 machines that were repaired and deemed safe need to be reassessed, and up to 70,000 may be affected before Australian regulators will be satisfied with Samsung’s claim to have resolved all issues.
Changes in product testing, certification
Home appliances only account for about 10% of Samsung’s operating profit, so the financial crush is not so pronounced as the Note 7 recall, which has tanked the mobile communications division’s Q3 earnings.
Ahead of the Galaxy S8 rollout, which has been delayed as a result of the Note 7 recall, Samsung is considering major changes to its supply chains and R&D practices. The washing machine issues, though affecting the home appliance division, may also prompt a review of how the company tests its products for those market segments.
While Samsung will have to work hard to win back consumer trust, considering the strength of its brand name, it may not have a truly uphill battle: a recent ReportLinker survey found that 86% of Samsung phone owners could still stick with the company, despite the Note 7 issues.
The battery supplier(s) whose wares proved so disastrous for the Note 7 have still not been formally named. It is unclear if Samsung SDI-made batteries, which accounted for 70% of all Note 7 power units produced prior to the first recall, were wholly or even exclusively at fault.
The issue may also lie with the Note 7’s casing, software, and/or circuit board. Samsung has not formally assigned blame to SDI, or any of its divisions and partners, as of this writing.
While keeping mum about the internal investigation, Samsung may be considering at least one near-term change. Unlike other major smartphone makers, the South Korean conglomerate tests its cellphone batteries at an in-house lab, rather than through an independent entity.
Since that lab found no problems with either the original batteries or their equally volatile replacements, industry experts speculate that a new approach could emerge, if nothing else, to assuage consumer and regulator concerns about transparency.
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