Samsung has confirmed that it is extending the exchange programme for its faulty Galaxy Note7 to include parallel import sets in what is Singapore's first major mobile phone recall.
Although it will first replace the phones of those who bought from authorised retailers here - estimated to be in the "thousands" - the South Korean firm will also provide a new Note7 device to those who bought handsets from parallel importers.
Samsung will also extend the exchange programme beyond its original Oct 2 deadline.
How to tell if a handset is defective
Amid fears that some faulty Samsung Galaxy Note7 devices may still be sold in online marketplaces, Samsung has developed a way to tell the new phone apart from the original one with faulty batteries.
The new Note7 handsets use a green charging light indicator on the display screen instead of the original white.
The green light icon will appear after a software update is applied to the new phones.
The software update will be rolled out later this month to Singapore users, said a Samsung spokesman.
A solid black square on the top right of the box that comes with the phone is also an indication that the Note7 in it is a non-defective unit.
In addition, later this month, Samsung will launch a website for its Note7 customers in Singapore to check their phone IMEI (identity) number against an online database to verify that their set is safe.
A Samsung spokesman told The Straits Times: "While we encourage consumers to always buy from authorised retailers, Samsung is prioritising consumer safety in the global replacement programme."
She said those who bought from authorised retailers will get their replacement handsets first in its exchange programme, which kicked off last Friday. It will run until Oct 2 at the Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre.
After Oct 2, customers will need to call the 1800-SAMSUNG (7267864) hotline to make arrangements for the exchange.
Users who bought from parallel importers - usually at a discount from e-marketplaces such as eBay and Qoo10 - can call the same hotline to arrange for an exchange.
Technology lawyer Jonathan Kok of RHTLaw Taylor Wessing said Samsung is controlling the damage to its reputation. "If Samsung does not replace the faulty sets, it can be sued for product liability (in the case of) a customer injury, loss or damage as a result of the defect."
Note7 user Sadiq R, 26, is glad that Samsung has extended the exchange programme beyond Oct 2.
"I was told by its call centre on Monday that I would not be able to replace my handset after Oct 2," said the graphic designer, who had also asked for a refund.
But the phone maker maintained yesterday that it will not be offering Singapore consumers a refund, which is being offered in markets such as Australia and the US.
Samsung, which issued a global recall of 2.5 million Note7 phones this month, said it will resume selling the device in Singapore in October, after the exchanges are done.
With its new edge-to-edge screen, water-resistant feature and iris scanner, the Note7 debuted in August to rave reviews. It was poised to lift Samsung's quarterly profit and take on Apple's new iPhone 7, which went on sale in Singapore last Friday.
To date, close to 80 per cent of Note7 owners who had bought from Samsung's authorised retailers in Singapore have registered to have their handsets replaced.
Local authorised retailers and distributors have also since returned more than 80 per cent of all unsold Note7 devices.
Lawyer Kala Anandarajah, who heads the Competition & Antitrust and Trade team at Rajah & Tann, said Singapore laws are stricter on defective cars than on defective phones.
"Defective cars that are not safe must be fixed under the law, and this requirement applies to both authorised dealers and dealers of parallel import cars," she said.
"For mobile phones, however, a formal recall imposed on the manufacturer, authorised resellers or dealers of parallel imports is at the discretion of Spring Singapore."
Last Thursday, the United States safety regulator, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, started banning the sale of the phone, which had caught fire, as well as issuing an official recall.