Samsung Electronics faces possible class action lawsuit
Thousands of disgruntled Galaxy users in Korea are threatening a class action suit against Samsung Electronics, claiming that an app was intentionally installed on their devices to throttle performance.
The Game Optimizing Service (GOS), they argue, causes other apps to slow. The suit will seek 300,000 won ($244) per user.
"We will charge Samsung Electronics with false advertising," said Kim Hoon-chan, an attorney at the A part law firm representing the group. “After bringing together interested users and preparing necessary documents, we aim to file the complaint with the court at the end of this month.”
The group is organizing via a Naver-hosted community with 4,000 members. It started collecting signatures Monday night and, as of Tuesday afternoon, 1,867 had been collected.
"Users are infuriated because the phones in their hands have significantly lower data processing functions than advertised," a representative of the group told Korea JoongAng Daily on the condition of anonymity.
Apple has paid hundreds of millions of dollars in the United States to settle with users after similar complaints and has also faced legal action in the EU due to the slowing of processors in some iPhones to preserve battery life.
If the suit against Samsung Electronics is successful, the company could face hefty settlement costs, as all users might have to be compensated, and possibly reputational damage.
Samsung Electronics is the largest maker of phones in the world and has taken big hits in the past, especially after Galaxy Note 7 fires and the resulting recall in 2016.
“This all boils down to trust of products,” said Greg Roh, an analyst at HMC Investment Securities. “Samsung Electronics has come under huge pressure, and the controversy will impact its roadmap on product development in a substantial way.”
Samsung Electronics has pre-installed the GOS app since 2016 on multiple Galaxy models, mainly to prevent overheating by cutting down data processing speeds of processors. Consumer anger increased with the Galaxy S22, as the manufacturer blocked ways to disable GOS. Users were stuck with the throttling.
The flaw does not show up at home when off-the-shelf performance tests are run, but it has been replicated by tech professionals.
Geekbench, a Canadian test service, found that performance fell by more than 50 percent when the throttling app kicked in, though it noted that Galaxy Note products were not affected. It said on its Twitter account last week that what Samsung Electronics is doing is "a form of benchmark manipulation," given the fact that the throttling is not apparent when users run their own tests.
Samsung Electronics will allow users to deactivate the offending app following the next software update.
"The GOS in the Galaxy S22 is pre-installed to optimize the performance of the central processing unit and graphics processing unit when gaming for a long time, a measure to avoid overheating," according to a statement released on the Samsung Members online community last Friday.
"To meet the different needs of consumers, we plan to carry out a software update soon to provide an option that prioritizes performance," it said.
Multiple users and media outlets suspect that the GOS system throttles not only games but everyday apps like Netflix, YouTube, Spotify and Instagram. Android Authority, a publication dedicated to the operating system, reports that 10,000 apps are controlled by GOS.
Samsung Electronics runs a highly-customized version of Android.
"I don't really use any gaming apps, but I have experienced a lag when using the camera or playing YouTube videos," said Heo Hyeok, a 26-year-old Galaxy S22 user who signed up for the class action suit.
"It appears that my previous Galaxy Note 9 performed better in this respect," he said.
Samsung Electronics challenges accusations like this.
"The GOS only works to limit overheating when playing data-heavy games," the company said in the statement, "And it doesn't activate in non-gaming apps."
The GOS glitch comes as Samsung Electronics is facing questions about the performance of its devices, especially those with the company's Exynos chipset installed as opposed to the Qualcomm Snapdragon equivalent, and as the latest products from the company tend to run slower than their Apple counterparts.
Shares of Samsung Electronics fell 0.86 percent on Tuesday to close at 69,500 won.
BY PARK EUN-JEE [email@example.com]