Verizon Won't Complete Calls For Galaxy Note 7 Owners Who Refuse To Return The Flawed Device

from the spontaneous-combustion dept

Most of you recall that Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 suffered a bit of a problem with spontaneously combusting. That led to months of horrible press and an FAA ban on taking the device on airplanes. You might also recall that Samsung exponentially amplified its own PR disaster by then issuing a replacement phone that suffered from the exact same problem. Since then, carriers have been passing on a Samsung update that effectively bricks the device, preventing users from recharging the device. Most users have traded in the device for, you know, something that doesn’t explode.

But there remain a few thousand Galaxy Note 7 owners that for whatever reason have chosen to ignore Samsung and the formal recall by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission. According to Verizon, there are still “thousands” of users on their network who continue to use the device, refusing to install the update that would render the device inoperable:

“In spite of our best efforts, there are still customers using the recalled phones who have not returned or exchanged their Note 7 to the point of purchase,” a Verizon spokeswoman tells Fortune. “The recalled Note 7s pose a safety risk to our customers and those around them.”

Interestingly, Verizon was initially the only wireless provider that refused to pass on the bricking update, insisting they didn’t want to leave customers stranded for the holidays (despite the fact said users could have swapped out the device for free at any time). But Verizon has since taken a notably harder stance on the safety issues created by the device. As such, they’ve announced that they’ll now refuse to connect any of the non-911 calls made via the Galaxy Note 7, instead routing every call to Verizon’s customer service department:

“So now Verizon is going to go even further, putting the phones in a special category so that all outgoing calls not directed toward the 911 emergency service will only connect to customer service. Because Note 7 users have also already been reimbursed for the cost of the long-since recalled Note 7, Verizon is also saying it might bill the holdouts for the full retail cost of the phone.”

It’s a curious predicament. On the one hand, you can’t feel particularly bad for customers who knowingly refuse to trade in a device that could spontaneously explode, hurting themselves or others in the process. On the other hand, these users are supposed to technically “own” this device, which a carrier is now refusing to connect to the network. And while users on device payment plans may technically still owe Verizon money for the device in Verizon’s billing systems, users are arguing that Samsung has already reimbursed Verizon for these devices in the wake of the recall.

Verizon insists it needs to disable the device for public safety (though liability could still be a motivator), while Galaxy Note 7 owners apparently believe they have every right to be stupid, self-immolation be damned.

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Companies: verizon

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Comments on “Verizon Won't Complete Calls For Galaxy Note 7 Owners Who Refuse To Return The Flawed Device”

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31 Comments
Machin Shin (profile) says:

“while Galaxy Note 7 owners apparently believe they have every right to be stupid”

Well, don’t they have the right to be stupid? As far as I know companies still do not have the power to legally require you to return something you bought, even for a recall. Keeping something that might randomly explode might be stupid, but if they chose to do so that is their right.

I also wonder though, how many of these non-returned phones are actually in use? I am sure there are a few people who love the phone and still use it. I also bet there are some that are holding onto the phone strictly as a collectors item.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Re:

As far as I know companies still do not have the power to legally require you to return something you bought, even for a recall.

Well, unless there’s IP involved. Knock-off branded clothing and other items for example.

Or even the real thing: A store in Canada accidently sold 15 copies of a Harry Potter book a few days too early. The publisher got a court order demanding their return.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“As far as I know companies still do not have the power to legally require you to return something you bought, even for a recall.”

They’re still not legally requiring them to return the device. They’re simply refusing to provide service to a device that’s known to be hazardous. They can keep hold of it if they want, they just won’t be able to connect to Verizon to use it.

“I also wonder though, how many of these non-returned phones are actually in use?”

Given the following quote:

“there are still customers using the recalled phones”

I’m not sure how many, but I’d say that if Verizon are willing to take this sort of step, there’s enough of them to be concerned. I’d be willing to bet that if a Verizon user were to suffer injury, they’d be blamed by some lawsuit for allowing them to continue using the device. I’d also be willing to bet that there’s a non-zero number of people who still have no idea of the problems with the phone they’re using despite all the publicity.

If people want to keep hold of the device but not use it, that’s fine. Nobody can force them to return it, AFAIK. But, I can definitely understand why Verizon wouldn’t want to be involved in the continued usage of the phones.

Sloop JB says:

Re: Re:

Yes, you have a point. But Verizon is not the manufacturer; it is an independent actor — a middleman so to say. Allowing a device with a known danger on your network arguably exposes Verizon to negligence, since allowing the phones on its network can be (mis)interpreted as a tacit endorsement of their suitability to purpose.

Also, so long as the cost of the phones are credited back to the consumer who bought it, Verizon is totally in the right to demand the phone back. It sounds like some may have gotten refunds and want to keep the phone too.

Anonymous Coward says:

I’m sure that at some point the carriers’ various legal departments all determined that this is what they need to do in order to avoid liability in any further injuries/death. At the very least, this lets the carriers avoid costs of defense in related wrongful injury/death litigation, at the risk of defense costs for service termination.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: The thing about being stupid...

Slippery slope. That’s like saying that a gun has a small chance of misfiring and killing by accident, therefore we’ll take away your gun. A car has a small chance of steering or brake failure which could lead to traffic fatalities, therefore we’ll take away your car.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: The thing about being stupid...

Ram recalled trucks for a rear axle issue that could result in the wheel falling off at highway speeds. It actually did happen with at least one vehicle, resulting in a fatality for an oncoming driver. Ram has no ability to override the “right to be stupid” of truck owners that didn’t follow the recall procedure.

There is no law to enforce a product recall. Although there is precedent for determining the owner assumes risks associated with the recall by ignoring the recall. Same goes for phones. And when laws are created to take away something because it might be harmful, it’s suddenly very easy to expand those for “other” products or devices. From that perspective, the comparison to cars (or guns) is quite legitimate.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Last month, wasn’t Verizon reluctant to do this because they didn’t want to cut their customers off?

Yes, but: a) holidays are past, so no one needs a cell phone for another 10 months or so, and b) the prior obnoxiousness was to render the device incapable of charging, which would (after power ran out) make it unable to call anything, including emergency services. The current obnoxiousness still allows you to make emergency calls.

Anonymous Coward says:

Hold time?

Given the wonderful responsiveness of customer service departments that are not creating extra work for themselves by intercepting calls, how long will you wait on hold to get the lecture about how you need to return the device immediately? If Verizon wants to refuse service to these people, I really hope that the first line is to drop them to an automated message explaining the problem, rather than expecting them to stay on the line to receive the lecture live.

Nilt (profile) says:

Not so simple, in my view

It is not so clear that these consumers could be considered owners of the devices at this point. These are devices that are under a very well publicised recall. Verizon has already refunded the purchase price of these devices to these consumers. Verizon almost certainly cannot be reimbursed for their costs for the recalled devices until they return them to the manufacturer.

Thus, Verizon is financially damaged in the situation, aside from being a third party with deep pockets who will absolutely be sued by anyone injured by these devices. I see this as a no-brainer on Verizon’s part. You don’t get to endanger the public by carrying around a small incendiary device just because you think you’re entitled to keep a phone you didn’t actually pay for.

faceless (profile) says:

Mine still hasn't blown up

Actually, none of them have blown up and the danger of them being a fire hazard was grossly exaggerated by ad revenue based reporting.

The most popular and sensational stories were all determined to be faked or misidentified.

Actual verified incidents only caused minor heat transfer damage to property and treat and release skin irritation.

I’m not on Verizon, but if I were, I would probably be changing the IMEI to that of a different device right about now.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Mine still hasn't blown up

You’re absolutely right! It’s a little-known fact, but the executives at Samsung are actually allergic to money, so when it looks like they are making too much of it they go into panic mode and spend tens of millions of dollars recalling one of their flagship products and taking a serious hit to their reputation.

Good job on sussing out the truth and NOT being a clueless moron! Wake up sheeple!!

(faceless? more like brainless lol)

Anonymous Coward says:

Simple fix keep your note 7 working

Change the imei number to a diffrences phone you own making it appear as a diffrenteam device. IT’S easy and simple to do and is what I have done with no problems. This is completely legal in the US because you are not cloning a devices sim that is protected. TO do this you must know how to use android tools and qualcomm snapdragon tools.

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