Spark and Vodafone to replace Samsung Galaxy Note 7s after recall over battery explosions

Samsung is offering to replace Galaxy Note 7s sold in New Zealand as part of a global recall.

There have been problems with batteries in the phablets exploding or catching fire.

The company says anyone with a device with a model number beginning with SM-N930 should take it back to the store they got it from.

Spark and Vodafone have offered to replace or refund Note 7s sold to their customers. Both telcos have also stopped sales of the phone.

Samsung's Note 7s are being pulled from shelves in 10 countries, including South Korea and the United States, just two weeks after the product's launch.

Customers who already bought Note 7s will be able to swap them for new smartphones in about two weeks, said Koh Dong-jin, president of Samsung's mobile business.

He apologised for causing inconvenience and concern to customers.

Samsung New Zealand said none of the 35 cases reported globally were in New Zealand.

"Samsung is committed to producing the highest quality products and we take every incident report from our valued customers very seriously ... We are currently conducting a thorough inspection with our suppliers to identify possible affected batteries in the market," the company said.

"As our customers' safety is an absolute priority at Samsung, we have stopped sales of the Galaxy Note 7.

"For customers who already have Galaxy Note7 devices, we will voluntarily replace their current device with a new one over the coming weeks.

"We acknowledge the inconvenience this may cause but this is to ensure that Samsung continues to deliver the highest quality products to our customers.

"We are working closely with our partners to ensure the replacement experience is as convenient and efficient as possible."

Vodafone New Zealand said it was in contact with Samsung and would coordinate the logistics of the local recall for Vodafone customers.

All affected customers will be contacted directly.

"We have stopped sale of the Note 7 through all of our retail outlets and are removing all website promotions and social media sales offers.

"To ensure our customers can remain confidently connected, we have a range of return/replace/refund options available."

Spark also said it would stop selling the Note7 until further notice.

"Any customer who has purchased a Samsung Galaxy Note7 from Spark has the option of swapping it out for an alternative device, with the difference refunded, or choosing a full on-account refund.

"Alternatively, Spark customers can choose to retain their device and receive the replacement Note7 at a later date."

Refunds or exchanges on the current Note7 could be done in any Spark store, the telco said.

The recall, the first for the new smartphone though not the first for a battery, comes at a crucial moment in Samsung's mobile business. Apple is expected to announce its new iPhone next week and Samsung's mobile division was counting on momentum from the Note 7's strong reviews and higher-than-expected demand.

Samsung said there had been no reports of injuries related to the problem.

The company said it has not found a way to tell exactly which phones may endanger users out of the 2.5 million Note 7s already sold globally. It estimated that about 1 in 42,000 units may have a faulty battery.

Samsung's official statement was silent on whether customers should stop using their phones, and it didn't say whether the problems happened while the phones were charging or during normal use.

"The ball is in Samsung's court to make this right. Consumers want information about what's going on and peace of mind that this is not going to happen again," said Ramon Llamas, who tracks mobile devices at research firm IDC. "No one wants to wake up at 1, 2 or 3 (in the morning) and find out your smartphone's on fire."

He added that while phone combustions are unusual, "35 instances are 35 too many".

This year, Samsung ran into a quality-control issue with another smartphone, a niche model called the Galaxy S7 Active. Consumer Reports found that the phone didn't live up to its water-resistance promises. Samsung said that relatively few phones were affected and that it had identified and fixed the manufacturing problem. Samsung said it would replace devices under warranty if it failed, but it declined to let customers swap phones otherwise or to issue a broader recall.

On the Note 7, after complaints surfaced online, Samsung found that a battery cell made by one of its two battery suppliers caused the phone to catch fire. Koh refused to name the supplier.

"There was a tiny problem in the manufacturing process, so it was very difficult to figure out," Koh told reporters at a news conference. "It will cost us so much it makes my heart ache. Nevertheless, the reason we made this decision is because what is most important is customer safety."

Customers' reports of scorched phones prompted Samsung to conduct extra quality controlling tests and delay shipments of the Note 7s this week before the recall.

South Korean high school teacher Park Soo-Jung said she had rushed to buy the new phone, pre-ordering and then activating it on Aug. 19, its official launch date.

The 34-year-old living in the port city of Busan said that she was bruised when she rushed out of bed after her phone burst into flames, filling her bedroom with smoke stinking of chemicals.

She's having second thoughts about buying another newly released device, especially after losing all her personal data stored in the destroyed Note 7, she said.

"If the exploded phone had burned near my head, I would not have been able to write this post," she said in a popular online forum Thursday, where she shared a photo of the scorched Note 7 and described dousing the flames.

China is not affected by the sales suspension. The company said it used a battery made by another supplier for the Note 7s sold in China.

2degrees customers need to return their Note7 to the store they purchased it from, or if they purchased it online take it in to any 2degrees store .

All Note7s will be replaced and the company has three options for customers; exchange, pick up an alternative device until the new Note7 model arrives or receive a full refund.

Have a Note 7? Here's what you should do

• Customers are advised to go into the store that they purchased their Note 7 from.

• Those who bought online should either visit the relevant retail store or call Samsung on 0800 726 786 anytime.

• Samsung will arrange for a free replacement, but there may be a four week delay.

• The company will provide a loan phone to use in the interim for customers who do not want to wait that long.

• Samsung advises users to back up data using Smart Switch before bringing in their Note 7 for replacement.

• Customers should remember to remove their SD card, and to decrypt any encrypted data before removing.

- AP,

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