After Consumer Reports published its findings July 8 showing that the Galaxy S7 Active smartphone failed a water-resistance test, Samsung, the device's manufacturer, promised to replace phones with water damage within the standard one-year warranty, and said it fixed the problem within a week of our report.
However, when asked recently by Consumer Reports, neither Samsung nor AT&T appeared willing to replace a faulty phone if it suffers water damage after the standard one-year warranty expires. They also won't disclose any identifying information, including serial numbers, that would allow consumers to distinguish between the flawed and fixed phones.
What’s more, salespeople at some AT&T stores, where the S7 Active is exclusively sold, seem to have little information about the initial water-resistance issue or what recourse consumers have, according to a spot survey by Consumer Reports secret shoppers.
Until we have assurances from AT&T and Samsung that all the S7 Active phones in their current inventory are models that have been fixed, Consumer Reports cannot reliably purchase one of the new phones and test it to see if the problem has been addressed. We buy all products we test, and do not accept free samples from manufacturers to ensure we are testing the same models consumers buy in stores.
The S7 Active would've been a recommended phone from Consumer Reports had it not failed our water-resistance test.
We visited a total of five AT&T stores in four states—New York, Michigan, Texas, and Florida—to inquire about the phone's water-resistance woes and the suggested remedies. In fact, three of the five salespeople our secret shoppers approached said they didn't know about any issue with the phone's water resistance.
Although the sample size is small, it indicates that consumers may experience inconsistent and conflicting information about how to seek restitution if they have a phone with water damage.
A clerk in Troy, Mich., for instance, questioned the veracity of Consumer Reports' tests, even though Samsung had confirmed in mid-July that some Galaxy S7 Active phones produced up to the date of our testing had failed to meet the advertised water-resistance standard because of a manufacturing issue.
Samsung says the phone follows an engineering standard called IP68 that covers both dust- and water-resistance, and that the phone is designed to survive immersion in five feet of water for 30 minutes. That’s the spec we used in testing the Galaxy S7 Active.
Meantime, a clerk in Midlothian, Texas, did not know about the problem on the Active, and tried to sell us an AT&T protection plan to safeguard the phone from the potential leaks when we asked about the water-resistance issues.
AT&T declined to comment specifically on how its stores are handling questions about the S7 Active's water resistance. But Emily J. Edmonds, the company's director of global media relations, said in an emailed statement, "New Galaxy S7 active devices have been shipping to AT&T stores. As previously stated by Samsung, the production issue has been resolved and we have received very few customer inquiries. Any owner with water damage will receive a replacement under the standard limited warranty."
When our shoppers asked the AT&T clerks for guidance on what to do if their water-resistant phones failed to survive a bout with water, they were told to raise the issue with Samsung. This is despite the fact that Samsung told us that consumers could take the issue up with either it or the retailer where the phone was purchased. AT&T also has a page on its website about exchanging a water-damaged S7 Active.
"The guarantee is through Samsung, just contact them if you have a problem," said the salesperson in Michigan.
According to the salesperson in Mount Dora, Fla., who was also unaware of any issues, our buyer had only 14 days from the time of purchase to return the phone to AT&T if there were any defects.
When Consumer Reports followed up on its initial request to Samsung, a spokesman said, "At this point all we have to say is that the production issue has been resolved and we have received very few customer inquiries. Any owner with water damage will receive a replacement under the standard limited warranty."
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