February 6, 2017 / 3:31 AM / 9 months ago

S.Korea to strengthen battery safety rules after Note 7 fires

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea said on Monday it will strengthen lithium-ion battery safety requirements and conduct regular inspections to avoid repeats of fires which forced Samsung Electronics Co Ltd to withdraw its premium Galaxy Note 7 handset.

A customer uses his Samsung Electronics' Galaxy Note 7 as he waits for an exchange at company's headquarters in Seoul, South Korea, October 13, 2016. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji/Files

Manufacturers of lithium-ion batteries, commonly used in portable devices, would be subjected to greater oversight and regular inspections, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said in a statement. Devices using lithium-ion batteries also would be subjected to more regular safety tests, it added.

“We ask that the industry shares the view that making efforts to ensure safety is equally as critical as developing new products through technological innovation,” Vice Minister Jeong Marn-ki said in the statement.

Samsung was forced to scrap the near-$900 Note 7 smartphones in October after some of the devices caught fire due to faulty batteries, wiping out about $5.4 billion in operating profit over three quarters.

Samsung and independent investigators said in January that different battery problems from two suppliers - Samsung SDI Co Ltd and Amperex Technology Ltd - caused some Note 7s to combust.

A separate probe by the Korea Testing Laboratory also found no other cause for the Note 7 fires other than a combination of manufacturing and design faults with the batteries, the trade ministry said.

The government also said it would monitor Samsung’s efforts to improve battery safety, such as x-ray testing and stricter standards during the design process.

It would strengthen recall-related requirements by broadening the types of serious product defects that manufacturers should report to the government, and seek legal changes to allow the government to warn consumers to stop using certain products even if they had not been recalled.

Reporting by Se Young Lee; Editing by Stephen Coates

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