Last week, after 35 incidents in which its new Galaxy Note7 had caught fire - including some in which its battery 'exploded' - Samsung halted sales of its new flagship phone, before announcing a voluntary recall and replacement program.
The recall is expected to cost the company hundreds of millions of dollars, and of course, its customers will no doubt be frustrated by the inconvenience of returning the device for a replacement or refund. On top of this, Samsung may also have to face the uncomfortable reality of its newest range-topper being banned from US flights.
The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) told Gizmodo that it is considering how best to respond to the situation, and that a flight ban is a possibility. But the situation is somewhat confused at the moment, as a result of how Samsung has actually handled the recall.
Last week, US consumer advocacy group Consumer Reports criticized Samsung over its approach. While the Korean company has announced a voluntary recall of the device, Consumer Reports noted [emphasis ours]:
The company's action was not an official recall, which would have involved the Consumer Product Safety Commission [CPSC] and would have made it illegal to sell the phones. Consumer Reports shoppers checked multiple retailers Friday morning, and found the phone for sale at some of them.
Had Samsung implemented official recall procedures and involved the CPSC, agencies like the FAA would have had a much clearer path to follow in responding to the recall. An FAA spokesperson explained:
The FAA and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration are working on guidance related to this issue. If the device is recalled by the manufacturer, airline crew and passengers will not be able to bring recalled batteries or electronics that contain recalled batteries in the cabin of an aircraft, or in carry-on and checked baggage.
But with the Galaxy Note7 still being sold and many owners potentially unaware that a recall has even been announced - and no official recall procedures in action - the FAA is in something of a gray area, and must now consider a measured response to ensure that the safety of airline passengers is not put at risk.
Update: The FAA has issued the following statement:
In light of recent incidents and concerns raised by Samsung about its Galaxy Note 7 [sic] devices, the Federal Aviation Administration strongly advises passengers not to turn on or charge these devices on board aircraft and not to stow them in any checked baggage.