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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  • icon
    Machin Shin (profile), 19 Jan 2017 @ 7:52am

    "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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2017 @ 9:46am

      Re:

      Oh they do have that right. But Verizon also has a right to modify their contract at any time with notice. And they've changed the contract to say that the Note 7 is banned on their network.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Roger Strong (profile), 19 Jan 2017 @ 10:09am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 20 Jan 2017 @ 12:41am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Sloop JB, 23 Jan 2017 @ 9:01am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    onthewaterfront, 19 Jan 2017 @ 9:40am

    Hell

    A phone that can only call Verizon's service department.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2017 @ 9:50am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    John85851 (profile), 19 Jan 2017 @ 9:54am

    The thing about being stupid...

    If customers want to be stupid and not trade-in a phone that explodes, then yes, they have every right to do so.
    However, when that same phone could explode and burn down their house or explode on an airplane, *or in any way hurt someone else*, then they lose their "right to be stupid".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2017 @ 9:59am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2017 @ 12:07pm

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

        It was determined that this was enough of an issue to have a complete and total recall. They didn't just decide to do this on a whim.

        I won't even address what you're comparing it to because that's frankly ridiculous and fallacious thinking.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2017 @ 3:35pm

          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.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2017 @ 11:27am

      Re: The thing about being stupid...

      Any phone could explode.

      This particular phone might have a higher risk of exploding but I bet lots of other things are much more likely to kill people than one of these phones.

      We all could just go live in padded rooms, I hear they are pretty safe.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Michael, 19 Jan 2017 @ 9:57am

    Hello, fire department?
    What!? This is Verizon customer service?
    I am trying to call the fire department, can you connect me?
    My phone is on fire! Help!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2017 @ 9:58am

    Do kids these days actually use their phones for calls? Unless VZW plans on rerouting all data and text messages to a customer service portal, I don't see this really causing a major inconvenience.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2017 @ 10:32am

    Jesus christ this is horrible. Just what was the rate of Note fires? 1 in 1000, 1 in 100? Maybe at 1 in 10 I might be less horrified at the deliberate remote bricking of the device.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Roger Strong (profile), 19 Jan 2017 @ 11:59am

      Re:

      1 in x might not seem bad, but that was for new phones. No doubt the failure rate would get worse after a couple years of the phone being stressed, dropped etc.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Berenerd (profile), 19 Jan 2017 @ 10:36am

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

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2017 @ 11:08am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2017 @ 10:40am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2017 @ 12:49pm

    >notably harder stance

    Disabling the functionality on the network side is not a "notably harder stance" than pushing malware. They're essentially saying use it at your own risk, but not on our network, which is a relatively pro-user freedom stance.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Nilt (profile), 19 Jan 2017 @ 4:09pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    faceless (profile), 19 Jan 2017 @ 4:19pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 20 Jan 2017 @ 12:49am

      Re: Mine still hasn't blown up

      "Actually, none of them have blown up"

      Did you tell Samsung that? Because they seem to think they did, right down to the fact that they've released the outcome of the research which explained the root cause.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Jan 2017 @ 7:20am

      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)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Jan 2017 @ 5:55am

    If they can do this...

    what stops them from disabling your phone because it has a feature that the government doesn't like, say, stingray detection, or good encryption.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Cowherd, 20 Jan 2017 @ 2:58pm

    Right to be stupid

    Eventually some of those holdouts are going to have their phones explode and sue someone for failing to stop it.

    The right to be stupid is, unfortunately, very much real.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Jan 2017 @ 8:51pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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