US safety regulators started an official recall of Samsung Electronics’ Galaxy Note 7 smartphone, about two weeks after the company halted sales following reports of dozens of devices catching fire or exploding.
Samsung is recalling about 1m of the phones because a battery flaw can lead to overheating, posing a serious burn hazard, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission said.
That represents about 97% of the Note 7 devices that hit the US market, CPSC chairman Elliot Kaye said at a press conference. Samsung told regulators that the phone’s battery was slightly too big for its compartment and the tight space pinched the battery, causing it to short-circuit, Kaye said.
“Last week the public heard our message to power down the phone. This week’s message is ‘go get a replacement or a refund’,” Kaye said. “Because this product presents such a serious fire hazard, I am urging all consumers to take advantage of this recall right away.”
There have been about 92 reports of batteries overheating in the US, with 26 cases involving burns and 55 involving property damage, according to the commission.
A comprehensive report hasn’t yet been released on the battery issue. Samsung previously told a Korean government agency there was an error in production that pressured the plates within the battery cells and brought opposing poles into contact, which triggered the excessive heat.
The company sent a separate report to China’s inspection agency, asserting that the problem came from separators sitting between the electrodes that could thin and cause short-circuiting.
“The dimensions of the materials they put into the pouch were a little bigger than the pouch itself,” Kaye said. “By putting that all together and squeezing it into the compartment, it caused some pinching.”
That, in turn, led to short circuits within the batteries. In some cases, it prompted a phenomenon known as “thermal runway,” in which the battery creates so much heat that it ultimately burns or explodes, he said.
Customers who purchased the smartphone before September 15 should immediately stop using and turn off their phones, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Consumers were advised to contact wireless carriers or Samsung outlets to receive a new, free phone with different battery, a refund, or replacement device.
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