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(EDITORIAL from The Korea Times on Oct. 12)

All Headlines 07:07 October 12, 2016

Samsung's damage control
Quality, customer satisfaction are key priorities

When Samsung Electronics launched a massive recall of the Galaxy Note 7 last month after complaints of batteries catching fire, the company said the replacement phones would be safe. That turned out to be untrue.

Additional incidents have continued to arise from the smartphone even after Samsung assured customers that the new devices would not be defective. Several instances of replaced Note 7s emitting smoke were reported in the U.S. Last week, Southwest Airlines had to evacuate a plane at a Kentucky airport because a replacement Note 7 began smoking inside the cabin, which prompted an investigation by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Federal Aviation Administration. Smoke from the phone put a man in hospital in Kentucky.

With the replacement phones causing problems, Samsung decided earlier this week to temporarily halt the production of the Note 7. The decision comes only 10 days after it resumed sales of the handset in Korea. It also told global partners to suspend sales and exchanges of the product and advised customers to turn off their devices.

The way Samsung has dealt with the burning phone issue is not something customers expect from Korea's flagship conglomerate. Its hasty responses, such as telling customers to charge only to 60 percent of the battery capacity, have only angered customers. It is also regrettable that Samsung, which initially blamed the battery of the Note 7, has yet to figure out exactly what has been causing the fires.

The decision to suspend production and sales of the fire-prone gadget is timely, but it will do little to recover the company's brand image which has already been severely damaged. It should not have resumed sales here so soon after the announcement of the recall plan before conducting a thorough investigation of what caused the phones to burn. Given that the smartphone is an important item for most people, Samsung has caused a huge inconvenience for those who purchased the Note 7. It is unlikely that a customer who has experienced the hassles of the Note 7 -- having to take time out to visit a customer center and waiting for a new phone only to find out that safety concerns linger -- will go back to purchasing anything Samsung.

Korean mobile carriers -- SK Telecom, KT and LG Uplus -- should discontinue the sales of the Note 7 as many major U.S. carriers, including At & T and T-Mobile have done.

Samsung should spare no efforts to find out the fundamental cause of the fires and ensure that similar problems do not occur with their smartphones in the future. Besides smartphones, their other electronic appliances, such as refrigerators, have been known to be prone to malfunctions. Given Samsung's part in the Korean economy, it is urgent that the company recover its brand image and the only way to do this is to place quality and customer satisfaction above anything else. Samsung cannot afford to be complacent this time.
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