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U.S. Regulators Recall 1 Million Samsung Galaxy Note 7 Smartphones

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

U.S. products safety authorities are now recalling Samsung Galaxy Note 7 phones over exploding batteries - this after Samsung tried a voluntary recall for 2.5 million devices worldwide. NPR's Alina Selyukh reports that that process left some customers winding through a maze of stores, company representatives and unclear guidelines.

ALINA SELYUKH, BYLINE: For almost two weeks, Samantha Cannariato has been trying to return her potentially combustible phone.

SAMANTHA CANNARIATO: So we're talking about eight attempts, five store visits, three - no, we're on four phone calls now. And that doesn't count all the time that I've spent on Facebook, on Twitter, in email.

SELYUKH: She has spent more than 16 hours trying to take part in Samsung's recall of the Galaxy Note 7. It's been a dance between a phone carrier store and the authorized retailer that actually sold her the phone.

CANNARIATO: Every time I go in there, there is a brand-new reason why they can't do it this time.

SELYUKH: The first one came just a few days after Samsung said it would exchange the smartphones over reports of batteries catching fire. Cannariato rushed her phone to the first of what will be a series of store clerks.

CANNARIATO: He asked me, well, is your phone experiencing the issue? And I was like, no; It hasn't exploded yet (laughter).

SELYUKH: From here, you can imagine how the story spirals out.

CANNARIATO: I went Sunday afternoon.

He said that I could not return it there.

I kind of pushed back a little bit because...

They can't access my account.

I've been on the phone for an hour during lunch, and their system was down.

Can you come back tomorrow?

SELYUKH: And meanwhile, you're still using the Samsung Galaxy Note 7.

CANNARIATO: Yeah. When I charge it, I put it in a metal meatloaf pan (laughter) on the floor.

SELYUKH: There have been at least 92 reports in the United States of Note 7 batteries overheating. More than a quarter of the incidents caused burns, and almost two-thirds damaged property. That's why Cannariato is frustrated. Other users' stories shared online run the gamut from completely smooth exchanges to small hiccups to utter confusion.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ELLIOT KAYE: It's not a recipe for a successful recall for a company to go out on on its own.

SELYUKH: This is Elliot Kaye, and he sounds frustrated because he's the head of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. It's the agency that facilitates U.S. recalls. And for almost two weeks, Samsung's recall was not coordinated with the commission.

(SOUNDBTIE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KAYE: Anybody who thinks that a company going out on its own is going to provide the best recall for that company and, more importantly, for the consumer needs to have more than their phone checked.

SELYUKH: This comment came during a press conference where the government announced the recall. This means there is now a streamlined process to report incidents and return the phones. Also, users are now offered both an exchange or a refund, and it's now illegal to sell the phone.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TIM BAXTER: And we will work every day to earn back your trust.

SELYUKH: Samsung has now released this video with an apology for the battery defects and says a revamped, safer Note 7 will be on sale next week. And Cannariato says, after all of her trouble, she's still excited to get a new one. Alina Selyukh, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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