Some users claim company applies double standards around world
Samsung Electronics Co finally detailed what went wrong with its fire-prone Galaxy Note 7 handsets, but the seemingly comprehensive explanation on Monday did not satisfy consumers in the world's largest smartphone market.
On Monday at a press conference in Seoul, Koh Dong-jin, head of Samsung's mobile business, detailed flaws in battery design and manufacturing that the company has concluded were to blame for some of the smartphones catching fire.
Meanwhile, Chinese consumers and analysts have given a lukewarm response to the explanation, accusing Samsung of "passing the buck to battery suppliers."
China's Amperex Technology, which reportedly supplied batteries for 30 percent of Galaxy Note 7 production, declined to comment on this news when contacted by the Global Times Monday.
In response to allegations of adopting double standards in China while handling the crisis, Koh admitted that Samsung did not have a good communication with local consumers, and that is what prompted such claims. For this, he expressed his "sincere apologies."
But he reiterated that the company never treated Chinese users with a double standard, causing discontent from consumers like Hui Renjie.
"I did not see any sincerity and honesty in the comments made by Koh while on the stage. The South Korean company's so-called apology is still full of arrogance," Hui, a Guangzhou-based resident, told the Global Times Monday.
Hui's Galaxy Note 7 caught fire, exploded and burned his right buttock last September. To date, he said he has never received any notification from the company admitting that the Galaxy Note 7 devices sold in China were problematic, nor had he received any compensation.
By contrast, Samsung started a global Galaxy Note 7 recall on September 2, promising compensation of a gift card to US consumers who exchanged a Galaxy Note 7. The recall did not include Chinese markets until October, even though several cases of the phone catching fire in China had been widely reported in early September.
Samsung officials even attributed the overheating Note 7 incidents in China to "an external factor," caused by a fan heater or an induction oven, according to media reports.
Hui is not alone. A survey conducted by domestic news portal sina.com.cn showed that nearly 80 percent of Web users in China weren't satisfied with Samsung's explanation, believing there must be something wrong with the phone's structure or design.
The Chinese unit of Samsung declined to make a further comment on this when contacted by the Global Times.
Wang Yanhui, head of the Shanghai-based Mobile China Alliance, called on Chinese authorities to provide further protection of consumers' rights. Otherwise foreign brands would not treat Chinese consumers as properly as they do in other developed countries.
Samsung's Monday conference came a day ahead of its full-year earnings release.
In early January, the company forecasts that its fourth-quarter profit may be up 50 percent year-on-year to 9.2 trillion won (.8 billion), beating expectations on a smartphone rebound and robust chip sales.
Still, there won't be a recovery in the Chinese market, Wang told the Global Times Monday.
Not only consumers but also distributors in China have lost their confidence in Samsung.
A phone distributor surnamed Li told the Global Times Monday that the battery scandal would further weaken Samsung's brand in China's fiercely competitive smartphone battleground.
A Counterpoint Technology Market Research report released in October showed that the South Korean player was squeezed out of the top five smartphone vendors in the Chinese market by shipments during the third quarter. Local brands OPPO and Vivo became the two top brands in the market for the first time with shares of 16.6 percent and 16.2 percent, respectively.
"Apart from Samsung, another foreign handset giant - Apple - has not performed well in China recently due to the lack of distinctive competitiveness, giving Chinese homegrown brands a chance to snap up more of the high-end smartphone segment," said Wang.