The industry demonstrated an unprecedented level of unity last month when leaders Harvey Norman and The Good Guys began offering direct refunds to customers who had bought one of Samsung’s 140,000 recalled washing machines.

There have been 206 incidents, including fires, overheating and smoking, since the first recall was issued in April 2013, according to Samsung.

samsung burn out

The Good Guys’ (TGG) chief merchandise officer, Geoff Reader explained to Appliance Retailer that the catalyst for the move was ‘customer safety’ after Samsung began repairing the machines with a fire-retardant plastic bag and tape rather than offering a refund.

“The safety of our customers is paramount at The Good Guys and we put customer care and satisfaction first at all times. We understand our customer’s nervousness in continuing to use an affected machine even after it has been repaired, therefore in an effort to ensure our customers safety and peace of mind, we have decided, as an executive team, to offer customers a complete refund or replacement at no cost to the customer,” Reader said.

According to Reader, customers who purchased the Samsung models “understandably have expressed concern regarding their machines.”  However, he explained that the ones TGG have spoken to are happy to accept a full refund or replacement, and he was confident that any replacement unit purchased at any of The Good Guys stores would satisfy the needs of our customers.

Repair option “a major failure”

While Reader described the recall as “significant” he also described Samsung as being “incredibly diligent in handling the issue and has attempted to contact all affected customers to discuss their options.”

Meanwhile, Harvey Norman’s CEO John Slack-Smith told the media that consumers are owed a refund, as he believes it is a “major” failure as defined by Australian Consumer Law. “If a franchisee rang me and said ‘a customer had a plastic bag repair but is now not happy with that and wants a refund’, I’d tell them go ahead, straight away.”

These public comments were swiftly followed by The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) along with NSW State Minister, Vic Dominello and Fair Trading Commissioner, Rod Stowe who also confronted Samsung’s response to the recall.

Stowe said that, “We will continue to monitor the recall and hold Samsung accountable while ensuring consumer protections are enforced.”

“I welcome the support of the ACCC, in alerting the public to the dangers posed by these recalled products and the remedies available to them,” Dominello said.

Brand damage

Meanwhile, the damage to the Samsung brand has been incalculable as consumers took to Facebook to vent their frustration and CHOICE crushed two of the machines and launched a crowdfunding campaign to fund a TV commercial about the recall.

Administrators of the 2000 machine-owner members of the Facebook group set up in June, have been a significant force in keeping the issue alive. For two years, Samsung has been telling customers the machines only need to be repaired, however through the group, it was revealed that the repair was suspect, that the machine failure was “major” as defined by the Australian Consumer Law, which meant it was not good enough for Samsung to only offer a repair, and that more than 3.700 machines had been repaired in the factory then sold as new. The administrators pressured authorities into upgrading the recall and brought to wider attention story after story of near-tragedy due to washing machine blazes.

Seven Hills mother Tarnya Allen, one of the administrators of the “Samsung Washing Machine Recall – Consumer Support” Facebook group, said “someone had to make the fires stop and protect our families.”

After joining the group, Ms Allen became one of the first machine owners to successfully insist upon a refund or replacement. She’s been helping others do likewise since.

Samsung declined to comment.