Samsung row puts mobile certification under scrutiny

Updated on Oct 04, 2016 11:07 AM IST

Handset makers and analysts have questioned the method adopted by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), the agency responsible for certifying mobile phones in the country, for granting approval to the product.

A Samsung Note 7 is demonstrated in New York.(AP)
A Samsung Note 7 is demonstrated in New York.(AP)
Hindustan Times | By, New Delhi

Troubles seem to be never-ending for Samsung. The Galaxy Note 7, which caught fire recently forcing the company to recall around 2.5 million devices worldwide, is cooking up another controversy.

Handset makers and analysts have questioned the method adopted by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), the agency responsible for certifying mobile phones in the country, for granting approval to the product.

In 2012, the BIS launched the Compulsory Registration Scheme, after the Department of Electronics and Information Technology wanted to stop unsafe electronics, including cellphones, from being dumped in India. But the scheme didn’t address the safety concerns.

“The certifications done under the scheme are just a formality. These don’t help handset makers or consumers,” said an executive of a domestic handset maker.

Read more: Aviation regulator lifts ban on Galaxy Note 7 sold post September 15: Samsung

The regulator doesn’t check the products on its own. It directs handset makers to send the products, including batteries, to laboratories registered with the BIS across the country. According to new certification norms issued by the regulator in June, batteries and adapters have to be separately certified. The reports are then submitted to the regulator, after which the BIS issues a unique registration number.

BIS officials and Samsung executives did not respond to mails from HT till the time of going to press.

A large Chinese handset maker said Samsung had already received approvals from the regulator to sell the Note 7 in India. “It usually takes a company at least four to eight weeks to get the certification. Samsung would have got it at least a week before September 2, the day it announced the global recall of Note 7 units,” the executive. said

It was on this day that Samsung was to start selling the phone for 59,990 in the country. This means all phones would have gone on sale if the company hadn’t issued the recall.

Read more: Apple iPhone 7 at an advantage as Samsung decides to recall Note 7

Another executive of a Chinese handset maker said: “There are touts involved in the BIS registration and a nexus between them and officials cannot be ruled out.”

“The tests are self-regulatory, but no legal action can be taken against the regulator…. However, if a consumer complains to the regulator, it collects random samples from the market for testing. And if found at fault, action can be taken against the manufacturer,” said Sanchit Vir Gogia, CEO and chief analyst of Greyhound Research.

If the BIS wants safer handsets, it will have to alter the approval process and set up well equipped laboratories, experts said.

Read more: Samsung launches Note 7 with Iris scanner, Gorilla Glass 5 at Rs 59,990

Recently, a Samsung spokesperson said, “It is important to note that Samsung has not sold a single unit of Galaxy Note7 in India so far. The ‘green battery icon’ will appear on all Galaxy Note7 units that will be sold in India after it is launched.”

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Anirban Ghoshal was part of Hindustan Times’ nationwide network of correspondents that brings news, analysis and information to its readers. He no longer works with the Hindustan Times.

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