Exploding Phones, Silent Recall

YERUSHALAYIM -

Samsung has been making generous compensation agreements with owners of their Galaxy S4 which have burst into flames and exploded — on condition they keep quiet about it.

At least 20 such cases have occurred in Israel in recent months involving Galaxy S4 mobile phones bursting into flames. After a complaint is made, an agent from Scailex Corp., which is the official Samsung provider in Israel, comes to visit. Customers are given generous compensation packages on condition they sign a contract pledging not to sue the company for damages, and to maintain confidentiality, Ynet reports.

Reports of dangerous swelling and fire in batteries in the Galaxy S4 smartphones were first heard in October 2013. Samsung said that this was a defective series of batteries, and announced it would replace any battery for free. But the company denied any connection between the battery’s swelling issue and device explosions.

To date, Samsung has refused to order an official recall for its batteries in Israel, even though there have been thousands of cases of swollen batteries and at least 20 phones that exploded.

In an effort to get Samsung to act on the problem, Scailex turned to Prof. Yair Ein-Eli, a leading expert on battery technology from the Technion. He examined the Samsung batteries, and determined that they were potentially lethal. Ein-Eli met with the Korean engineers and told them that the battery issue “was a real crime.”

An official recall of the batteries was ordered, and the company offered to replace the battery for every Samsung S4 owner who came to the Israeli service centers, for whatever reason. Tens of thousands of S4 batteries have been shipped to Israel from the factory

Samsung Israel said in response that the battery problem was not a danger to life, and that it had taken steps to resolve the issue.

“From October 2013, Samsung has provided replacement batteries for the ones that swelled, which do not pose a danger to customers,” it said in a statement.

The company said the swelling or explosions were caused by “unauthorized” batteries, or “the result of external heat or knocks.”