Refurbished batteries from about 10,200 Samsung Galaxy Note 4 smartphones are being recalled because of counterfeit concerns.
According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, the recall involves only those lithium batteries placed into refurbished AT&T Samsung Galaxy Note 4 cell phones by FedEx Supply Chain, which were distributed as replacement phones through AT&T's Insurance programme.
Both FedEx and Samsung discovered that some of the batteries in question are counterfeit. These "show anomalies" that could lead to the batteries overheating, posing a fire and burn hazard, the Commission said.
The recall report states that the batteries were not supplied by Samsung as the original equipment manufacturer and notes that where they were manufactured is currently unknown.
There has been one report of a battery overheating but there have been no reports of injury or property damage, the Commission said.
Last year, Samsung was forced to recall 2.5 million Note 7 smartphones due to genuine Samsung batteries being faulty, with several reports of fire and explosions.
In the current, unrelated recall, the Commission said "consumers should immediately stop using the recalled battery and power down their smartphone," noting that FedEx Supply Chain was directly contacting consumers. "Consumers who own the recalled battery will receive by mail from FedEx Supply Chain a free, new replacement battery and a postage paid box to return the recalled cell phone battery," it added.
In a statement provided to the website Techradar, Samsung distanced itself from the incident. "FedEx Supply Chain is conducting this recall of non-genuine Samsung batteries as some of them are counterfeit. The refurbishment programme was managed by FedEx Supply Chain and operated independently of Samsung." The tech firm directed all enquiries to FedEx Supply Chain.
According to the TechCrunch website, FedEx declined to provide any information regarding the origin of the counterfeit batteries or information on how the batteries entered the supply chain.
Instead, in a statement provided to TechCrunch, FedEx said: "We are closely engaged with our customers to make sure all of these lithium batteries are safely ad quickly returned, and will replace those lithium batteries free of charge for consumers. FedEx Supply Chain places a high priority on the safe handling, packaging, and transport of our customers' products and regrets any inconvenience this recall may cause."
According to an OECD report in March this year, faked IT goods are on the rise because of the profit margins – the global illicit trade in ICT is valued at $143 billion. One in five mobile phones that are shipped internationally are estimated to be counterfeit, with smartphone batteries, chargers and memory cards "increasingly falling prey to counterfeiters", the report said. China is the main culprit behind the trade, it added.
"The high value of smartphone and ICT accessories and insatiable demand makes them a lucrative target for counterfeiters," the report warned, adding that the number and range of affected products was growing.
At the end of last year, the US announced an initiative targeting illegal imports of counterfeit consumer electronics where Operation Surge Protector would provide additional resources to customs, border and enforcement agents in investigating and tracking the import and sale of fakes. Then in April, US President Donald Trump signed an executive order giving US Customs and Border Protection and the Department of Homeland security new powers to keep counterfeit goods from entering the US.
Meanwhile, a new bill is being discussed in the US that is looking to control the export of electronic waste (e-waste), such as untested or nonworking electronics, to countries such as China, where it could be used in the production of counterfeit electronics that could then re-enter the US.