Samsung's irresponsibility will cost them more than just money, especially in India

The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 has been blowing up with disturbing frequency these last few months and safety concerns have forced Samsung to cease production.

I’m sure that we’re all aware of the whole Samsung Galaxy Note 7 fiasco by now. The device has been blowing up with disturbing frequency these last few months and safety concerns have forced Samsung to cease production and issue a “global” recall.

In the US and Europe, Samsung’s primary markets, the company is going out of its way to ensure a quick and safe recall of all affected units. It’s even gone so far as to ship fireproof boxes to consumers, fireproof gloves included, when the Royal Mail refused to handle the packages.

What happens in India, though? Since the Note 7 never officially launched in India, Samsung hasn’t officially done anything for affected users. Those who pre-ordered the phone only received a message saying that orders would be delayed and that Samsung would give them a free VR headset and some apps.

Samsung is being irresponsible

Image: Hui Renjie

Image: Hui Renjie

In fact, as far as we’re aware, customers in India haven’t even received a notice informing them that the Note 7 has been discontinued. That’s the height of irresponsibility.

We know of at least one case where a customer requested a full refund (on his own initiative) on his Note 7 pre-order, and other than an acknowledgement of his request, received nothing else. This happened almost a month ago and we’re sure the rest of Samsung’s Indian customers are in the same boat.

Can these customers do anything about it? Nope. If Samsung refuses to act in time, their only recourse is to go to the consumer courts with a case. ICLG reports that that an average case can take 1-2 years to resolve in a consumer court, longer if the defendant hires the right lawyers.

India’s woeful product and consumer safety standards are a matter for another article altogether; suffice to say that the onus is on Samsung to do the right thing.

Samsung is doing their level best to handle this disaster as best as possible in the US, but only because they’re afraid of being slapped on the wrist. In a country like India, there’s no one to do that slapping.

The correct response

Nokia BL-5C battery Tech2 720

This battery was at the heart of the largest product recall in history

Contrast Samsung’s reaction to Nokia’s. In 2007, Nokia realised that around 46 million BL-5C batteries were at risk of short-circuiting and exploding. The company immediately issued an advisory, set up a website to facilitate the recall and were transparent about the scope of the issue.

Nvidia was also in the same boat last year, when they decided to recall certain units of the Nvidia Shield tablet owing to battery issues. What did Nvidia do? They attempted to contact all registered users of the Shield to inform them of the issue and released a compulsory firmware update that forced affected customers to acknowledge the battery issue. Nvidia also warned customers, via the update, that the device would be disabled by a specific date and guided them through the replacement process.

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The Nvidia Shield recall was smooth and hassle free for customers. That's the way a recall should happen.

Once its customers activated their replacements, Nvidia simply disabled all defective units remotely. In the US, they also took responsibility for the collection and disposal of affected units.

Nvidia did all of this without any prompting from an external safety commission and issued replacements to everyone, no questions asked. The company didn’t ask for a bill, identity proof or any other document. You sent Nvidia your device’s serial number and return address, verified your contact details and you got a free replacement. There were no third-parties directly involved in the process.

If transparency and responsibility don’t inspire confidence in a brand, I don’t know what will.

Doing something out of fear of legal repercussions is among the most irresponsible thing a company can do. A 2013 survey conducted by TUV SUD suggests that 93 percent of Indians value safety above brand. In fact, the survey found that Indians were even willing to pay a premium for said safety and reliability. When you look at stats like that, woe be you if you toy with that trust.

The Note 7 is undoubtedly a disaster, costing Samsung untold billions, but Samsung still has a chance to win over its customers. All it has to do is take responsibility.

People will never forget the Note 7, they’ll even treat it as a bad joke, but they’ll also never forget Samsung’s treatment of them.

This trust is far more valuable than uncountable billions in the bank.

Come on, Samsung! You need to man up.

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