Samsung Announces “Product Exchange Program” For Galaxy Note 7 — But Don’t Call It A Recall

Despite confirming to media outlets earlier today that the Galaxy Note 7 would be “recalled” — implying that the company would soon go through official regulatory channels — Samsung has gone ahead and announced details of a “product exchange program” that is not, in actuality, an official recall.

The program, outlined in a press release from Samsung, will offer Note 7 owners the following choices:

1. Exchange current Galaxy Note 7 device with a new Galaxy Note 7 (as early as next week)

2. Exchange current Galaxy Note 7 for a Galaxy S7 or Galaxy S7 edge and replacement of any Note7 specific accessories with a refund of the price difference between devices.

Note 7 owners will also receive a $25 gift card or bill credit from “select carrier retail outlets” when choosing a Galaxy S7 family device or the Galaxy Note 7 within the exchange program. The select outlets were not listed in the announcement.

Samsung’s action is ahead of an official recall, which will require the involvement of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, and will have important legal consequences. For example, after the CPSC has announced an official recall, it makes it illegal for anyone to sell a recalled product, even a used one. The CSPC has confirmed to Consumerist that no official recall is yet in place.

The product exchange program will likely only serve to ruffle regulatory feathers further. As we were first to report, a federal safety official who asked not to be identified told Consumerist that “companies should not be putting out unilateral recall announcements. It doesn’t matter if it’s a global product or a solely U.S.-based company. Consumers should be appropriately informed, and that takes time and planning. It does not serve consumers well to simply say a product will be recalled without coordination regarding the scope and remedies.”

Samsung isn’t the first company in recent years to try to “recall” its own products without the necessary involvement of the CPSC. Following Consumerist’s reporting of rashes among Fitbit users, Fitbit “recalled” the Fitbit Force wristband on it’s own, with an official government recall following almost three weeks later.

More recently, McDonald’s did its own unofficial recall when it pulled millions of Step-It kids’ fitness trackers from Happy Meals after hearing complaints of burns and irritation. An official recall announcement didn’t come until nearly a week later.

To take advantage of the “product exchange program” consumers can contact or visit the retail outlet where they purchased their device or call 1-800-SAMSUNG. When an official recall is announced, we will update this post.

Our colleagues at Consumer Reports have called on Samsung to protect consumers by making the recall official.

“Samsung should immediately initiate an official recall with the Consumer Product Safety Commission given the serious nature of the safety problem it identified with the Galaxy Note 7,” said Maria Rerecich, Consumer Reports director of electronics testing. “We are particularly concerned that phones continue to be available for sale today.”

UPDATE: After nearly two weeks of delays, Samsung has finally made the recall official, affecting some 97% of Note 7 devices sold in the U.S.