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Samsung America Rules Out Offering Refurbished Note7s for Sale or Rent in US

Samsung Electronics America officially ruled out offering refurbished Galaxy Note7s for commercial availability in the U.S. That was after SEA's South Korean parent announced plans from Seoul on Monday to market refurbished Note7s as replacement or rental devices as one of three “environmentally friendly” measures to recycle an estimated 4.3 million units of the twice-recalled fire-prone smartphones.

The company’s “objective” in introducing refurbished Note7s “is solely to reduce and minimize any environmental impact” from the recall, an SEA spokeswoman emailed us Monday. “The product details including the name, technical specification and price range will be announced when the device is available. Samsung will not be offering refurbished Galaxy Note7 devices for rent or sale in the U.S.”

On the question how the public can be assured refurbished Note7s will be safer than the twice-recalled originals, “the Note7 battery issue was due to an isolated battery manufacturing error and we have disclosed the root cause in January,” the spokeswoman said of Samsung’s report on the Note7 fiasco in which it said it will address the safety of future phones "from the component level to the assembly and shipment of devices" (see 1701230048). Samsung is scheduled on Wednesday to bow the Galaxy S8, its first new smartphone introduction since the Note7 debacle in the fall. For the refurbished Note7s, “we will make sure the refurbished product will be equipped with a new battery, which has gone through new safety measures," including the "eight-point battery safety check” that Samsung disclosed in January, the SEA spokeswoman said.

Consumer Product Safety Commission spokesman Scott Wolfson emailed us Monday to refer us to SEA for comment that he said would “clarify that this announcement does not pertain to the product being refurbished and resold in the US.” We had queried Wolfson to ask whether CPSC had been in communications with SEA about ramifications in the Seoul announcement that refurbished Note7s could be offered commercially in the U.S. Wolfson’s reply that refurbished Note7s won't be sold or rented here, coupled with SEA's assertions to that same effect, gave clear evidence that CPSC had been in recent touch with SEA over the matter. Then-CPSC Chairman Elliot Kaye, in presiding in October over the agency's second Note7 recall in as many months, famously said he wanted the fire-prone smartphone off U.S. streets for good "without delay" (see 1610130044).

Greenpeace orchestrated the “global protests” that pushed Samsung to “finally recycle” the recalled Note7s, said the green group in a Monday announcement. Samsung’s recycling measures are “a HUGE win for the hundreds of thousands of people who took action,” said Jude Lee, global senior campaigner at Greenpeace East Asia, in a Monday blog post. “After five months of people powered actions around the world, Samsung pulled its head out of the sand and committed to recycling the millions of Galaxy Note 7 phones it recalled!”

Lee said Samsung “in a nutshell” committed to refurbishing “non-problematic components” of the Note7, such as the camera and alarms, “so they can be used and resold in future phones.” For components “that can’t be repurposed,” she said, Samsung vows to “extract and recycle the raw materials in an environmentally-sound way.”

Samsung promised, as Lee suggested, to salvage Note7 components for “reuse,” and to extract metals from the recalled phones using “environmentally friendly methods.” Her post skirted mention of Samsung’s other plans -- later confirmed by SEA -- to refurbish and resell an unspecified number of Note7s in markets that are yet to be determined. “Devices shall be considered to be used as refurbished phones or rental phones where applicable,” Samsung said. “Regarding the Galaxy Note 7 devices as refurbished phones or rental phones, applicability is dependent upon consultations with regulatory authorities and carriers as well as due consideration of local demand,” Samsung said. “The markets and release dates will be determined accordingly.”

On our queries to Greenpeace whether the green group is confident about the safety of the refurbished Note7s that the company now plans to offer for sale or rental, Greenpeace representatives "had an official meeting with Samsung last Friday with its plan how to treat Note 7 devices," Lee, who's based in South Korea, emailed us Monday. Samsung assured Greenpeace it will "refurbish" and distribute only Note7s that had "never been sold before," she said. Since "a faulty battery" turned out to be the "main cause" of the Note7 debacle, components "not related to this cause such as camera, alarm units etc will be repurposed for other devices and the list should be publicly shared when Samsung finalizes it," she said.