Ethics Report for Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 Introduction:The “exploding” Note 7 was one of thebig technology news in 2016. Samsung launched this device in August 2016, butin September, there were reports that these phones started overheating and catchingfire, so the firm had to recall them and decided to permanently stop production of this flagship model later. Therecall I was predicted to cost $5.3bnand damaged Samsung’s reputation.1 In this incident, severalethical problems were exposed, which caused the bad results in the end.
Next, Iwould like to talk about them and try to make some recommendations on how toimprove them. Ethical Problems:The ethical problemsinclude three aspects: supply chain issues, safety related to use of productand honesty and fair dealing. Let me describe these three different areas ofethics where the firm should improve one by one.Supply chain issues:For the supply chainissues, the problem was mainly the use of faulty batteries. The company, SamsungElectronics, used two separated battery suppliers for Note 7, one was SamsungSDI, which is a sister company in Samsung Group and the other one was AmperexTechnology Ltd (ATL). And according to Samsung’s official investigation on Note7’s battery, both manufacturers had their own issue.
2For the battery SamsungSDI, the investigation determined that the corner of the battery case was too small,there was not enough room between the heat-sealed protective pouch around thebattery and its internals. In the worst case, that might resulte in the negativeelectrodes in the corner being bent, weakened the separator between theelectrodes and made it easier to short-circuit the battery and the battery tobe overheating or even exploding. Such unintended damage was present in all thecells tested by Samsung.3In the case ofbatteries manufactured by Amperex Technology, there was a defect different formSamsung SDI’s. Some cells were missing insulation tapes, and because of poorlycontrolled welding process, some batteries had sharp protrusions inside thecell which led to damage to the separator between the electrodes. Also, theseparator used in these batteries were thin, that increased the risks of penetrationof the insulation and short circuiting.4Although thesebatteries were not made by Samsung Electronics itself, the company has its ownproblem.
It has the responsibility to test its devices before selling and makesure that they are safe while using them. That is a basic requirement for aproduct. But Samsung really did a bad job.
Also, the two manufacturers must havemet Samsung’s specifications so that their batteries were used. This reflectedthat Samsung was not rigorous enough in creating specifications and choosingsuppliers.Safety related to useof product:As the device maycatch fire or explode while charging, it was dangerous to use it. There waseven news about the phone that incinerated a Jeep. The device was left in the Jeepto charge while catching fire.5And in Australia, a Note 7 exploded inside a hotel room. That caused more than$1,800 AUD worth of damage and another phone has burst into flames.6So, it was necessaryto stop people from using the phone, and Samsung did recall the device afterthese reports.
However, the process was less satisfactory. The phone wasrecalled twice. For the first recall, Samsung admitted that SDI was to blame.The plates inside their battery were too close to each other near its roundcorners, that made it easy to be short-circuited.7So for the replacement phones, Samsung switched to its other supplier, usingthe battery from Amperex Technology instead of Samsung SDI. But the batterymade by Amperex Technology was also faulty, so it did not work. On SouthwestAirlines Flight 994, an exchanged Note 7 caught and filled the cabin withsmoke.8Therefore, Samsung had to recall all the devices at last.
After receivingcomplaints of phones that caught fire or exploded while charging, the firm didnot deeply investigate the reason caused it. It just attributed the fault tothe battery sourced from Samsung SDI, and simply replaced these devices’battery with another supplier’s, but ignored that the cells manufactured by AmperexTechnology were also faulty. This hasty behaviour was irresponsible as the batteryproblem might cause injuries and property losses.Honesty and fairdealing:In the area ofhonesty and fair dealing, Samsung ‘s ethical behaviour also should be improvedupon.This incident wasworldwide, and in China, there were also reports that the phone exploded.According to Beijing Times, a user posted photos of what looked like a charredNote 7 on Baidu Tieba (like China’s Reddit).
She claimed that she was holding thephone on her bed at that time and the it was not attached to a charger. Whileshe found something wrong with her phone, she threw it across the room, and itsuddenly caught fire.9However, at first,Samsung claimed it had found no battery problem for the devices sold in China,as these phones used the battery from Amperex Technology, rather than Samsung SDI.
10The company and its battery supplier, Amperex Technology, even said that theyinvestigated and found that the cause of the fires in those cases was externalheating sources.11In the first round of recall, China was not on the list, and it was the onlycountry where the firm had continued to sell Note 7.12Samsung did not recall its phones until China’s quality watchdog said on its sitethat the Note 7 devices had problems, which might cause the phones overheatingor even catching fire.Samsung was dishoneston the battery issues.
The company told people that their products were safebut they were not. It might want to keep sell Note 7 in China, because it wasone of the biggest smartphone market in the world. But its actions were unfairto Chinese consumers. Recommendations:For the first two problems, my recommendation is to higherthe specification for suppliers and examined the products before selling toensure the quality of them.
Although that may increase the cost, the firm couldredeem its reputation by doing so. In fact, Samsung did take some remedial measuresafter the incident. For instance, they did “8-point battery safety check” fortheir phones now.13For the last problem, what the company should do is just tobe honest and fair to its consumers.
Most people will not buy the products froma firm that is thought to be untruthful and inequitable. As a result of the unfairdealing, Samsung lost its share in China’s smartphone market. According to areport by Strategy Analytics, which is a market research firm, Samsung wasranked 9th in China with only a 2% market share in Q3/2017,14while these numbers were 5th and 9.7% in Q1/2015.15 Conclusion:In the part above, I mainly discussed some ethical problemsof Samsung. One problem was the lack of rigour.
Also, as a big smartphone firm,Samsung was not responsible enough. Beyond that, the company was dishonest andunfair to its consumers. As a result, its reputation was damaged. It lost itsshare of market and earned less profit. So, it is necessary to take actions toimprove the ethical behaviours.