Customer alleges Samsung tried to silence him after complaint

Documentation of the damaged Samsung Galaxy S4. Photo courtesy of Richard Wygand.

TORONTO – One Samsung customer is cautioning other users to be wary about the company’s customer service after he says he was asked to remove a YouTube video showing damage to a Samsung Galaxy S4 that nearly caught on fire while charging.

Vancouver area resident Richard Wygand was crashing on a friend’s couch for the night when he says he woke up to the smell of smoke and burning electronics.

“I woke up to the smell of burning electronics and since I deal with car audio equipment all day long, I know that smell is not good, so I started searching around for where the smell was coming from,” Wygand told Global News.

After searching the house he followed the smell to his friend’s room, where he says he saw his Samsung Galaxy S4 – which was plugged into its charger – smoking and producing sparks.

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“When I found the phone I saw that it was basically going into a meltdown – sparks were shooting up, it looked like there was a little miniature flame was going on in the charging port,” he said.

Thinking that the phone’s battery was at risk of exploding, Wygand said he quickly unplugged the phone and took it outside. He and his friend then began documenting the damage to the phone.

GALLERY: Images of the phone’s damage

Documentation of the damaged Samsung Galaxy S4. Photo courtesy of Richard Wygand.
Photo courtesy of Richard Wygand.
Photo courtesy of Richard Wygand.

According to Wygand, he was instructed by Rogers Wireless to take the issue directly to Samsung customer service and was eventually given an email address where he was instructed to email documentation of the damage to the phone – including a YouTube video that he uploaded December 2.

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“We sent them a YouTube video – that’s how the first video was created – so they could see the proof and say okay that’s good,” Wygand explained.

But it was Samsung’s response that surprised him.

Wygand alleges that in order to get a replacement phone from Samsung, the company asked him to first sign a legal document that would require him to remove his original YouTube video documenting the damage to the phone and surrender any future claims against the company.

“It was basically send us the proof, be quiet, and take blame,” he said.

“Asking me to take down the YouTube video, I mean, that’s a good business move. I’m not going to complain about that. But what really hit me was all the other stuff that was involved – basically they didn’t want me to talk about it.”

So, in turn, Wygand uploaded a second YouTube video – reading aloud sections from the letter and warning other users about what he describes as Samsung trying to “keep people quiet.”

“What’s pissing me off is that they are trying to bandage it and keep people quiet,” he says in the video.

Warning: Graphic language is used in the below video. Discretion is advised. 

He also uploaded the letter online for others to read, although he edited out the names on the document for privacy reasons.

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Global News contacted Samsung for a statement regarding Wygand’s allegations.

In a statement to Global News, Samsung confirmed it was aware of the situation and noted Samsung Canada was in contact with the customer to try to resolve the issue.

“We take the safety and security of our customers very seriously,” said a Samsung spokesperson via email.

“Samsung Canada has made multiple attempts to reach the customer and hopes to recover the phone so that we may investigate further. As requested, a replacement phone was sent to the customer.”

Wygand said that a representative attempted to deliver a replacement phone to his friend’s home, but he refused to accept it.

Other Samsung battery fire reports

This is not the first time that a Samsung customer account of a battery fire has gone public.

In February, South Korean fire officials said a man suffered second-degree burns after the lithium-ion battery from a 2011 Galaxy Note phone caught fire in his pants pocket.

At the time of the incident, Samsung said in a statement to South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo that the incident had not been reported to them and added, “Lithium ion batteries can catch fire due to external pressure or sudden changes in temperature, so we’re trying to understand what really happened.”

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In July, Chinese news outlets alleged that a Samsung Galaxy S4 was responsible for a house fire after a man’s phone burst into flames while he was using it.

But these reports aren’t limited to Samsung. Lithium-ion batteries are widely used in laptops, mobile phones and even cars and commercial airplanes.

However, according to technology blog Gizmodo, these batteries are also known to explode or produce flames.

“The lithium-ion batteries explosive tendencies are the result of a process known as thermal runaway,” read an article by Gizmodo.

“It’s essentially an energetic positive feedback loop whereby increasing temperature causes the system to get hotter, which increases the temperature, which causes the system to get even hotter, and so on.”

This over-heating can be caused by leaving the devices in a hot area or by over-charging them, according to Gizmodo.

In 2009 an overheated laptop computer left on a couch caused a fire that killed at 55-year-old Vancouver man. The laptop contained a lithium-ion battery, according to the Coroners Service of British Columbia.

Positive outcome

Since Wygand’s YouTube account of Samsung’s letter gained traction online – garnering over a million views after it was uploaded to Reddit – he has received countless tweets from other users about the experience.

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But one tweet stood out in particular – an offer from smartphone maker Nokia for a new smartphone.

“@ghostlyrich we want to help you out. Let me send you a Nokia Lumia so you can experience how customer service should *really* work,” read a tweet from Nokia’s U.S.-based Twitter account.

“We are definitely going to accept the phone from Nokia,” Wygand said.

“The fact that Nokia jumped out of the blue and just offered it – I mean everyone thought it was going to be HTC or Apple trying to throw me a phone – that’s pretty cool of them.”

On Thursday, Wygand said that Samsung contacted him again to try to arrange to pick up the damaged phone. He noted that he is working with the company to resolve the problems, but that the incident has left him feeling hesitant to use one of the company’s products again.

“I’m definitely not jumping back on the [Samsung] boat 100 per cent – I just couldn’t after having an issue like this,” he said.

“But will I be going around bashing the heck out of Samsung? I would never, just because other than this their phones have great features – the only thing they need to work on is battery, because obviously they’ve got a battery issue.”


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