SEOUL – Samsung Electronics Co. has temporarily halted production of its troubled Galaxy Note 7, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported Monday, following reports that replacements for the fire-prone phones were also overheating.
Citing an unnamed official at a Samsung supplier, Yonhap said the tech giant took the unprecedented measure for the sake of consumer safety as it struggles to manage a recall of 2.5 million smartphones.
The move comes after a spate of fresh reports of overheating and fires with phones that have been distributed to replace the original devices, which also had a risk of catching fire.
It follows decisions by U.S. phone retailers AT&T and T-Mobile to stop giving new Note 7 smartphones to consumers to replace older models while investigations of the replacement devices are underway.
AT&T, one of the biggest distributors of Samsung phones in the U.S., said Galaxy Note 7 customers can return their phones for different models while Samsung and U.S. safety authorities investigate why several phones melted in the past week.
T-Mobile US Inc. said it was suspending all sales of the Note 7 and halting exchanges for replacement Note 7s. Customers can still bring in their Note 7 phones for a refund or a different device.
Verizon said that any customer who didn’t feel safe with a replacement Note 7 smartphone could exchange it for another smartphone, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Recalls and replacements
The Note 7 recall is Samsung’s first smartphone recall and its biggest crisis in years.
In a statement in Seoul, Samsung said that it was “temporarily adjusting the Galaxy Note 7 production schedule in order to take further steps to ensure quality and safety matters,” without elaborating.
In a separate statement a few days later, the company said in response to reports about abnormal battery charging levels in its replacement phones that “the issue does not pose a safety concern.”
While Samsung hasn’t confirmed the latest reports of problems with its replacement phones, it said in a statement Sunday that it was working with authorities including the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to investigate the new incidents.
“If we determine a product-safety issue exists, Samsung will take immediate steps approved by the CPSC to resolve the situation,” the company said in a statement.
At least four Samsung phones emitted smoke or caught fire during the past week, including one on a Southwest Airlines Co. flight before takeoff. It wasn’t clear if the affected devices were Note 7s, or if the problems were because of faulty lithium-ion batteries.
Air travelers have been told not to turn on their Galaxy Note 7 devices during flights, regardless of whether they are replacement phones.
Samsung launched a recall of the one million Note 7 phones in the U.S. last month after discovering that the lithium-ion batteries could explode while charging.
Samsung’s devices aren’t the only electronics to catch fire. Lithium-ion batteries, which currently power many mobile devices in addition to Samsung’s, have been known to catch fire. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has previously said they have recorded 171 incidents involving batteries aboard aircrafts from 1991 to January of this year.