U.S. safety regulators announced a formal recall of Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 smartphone Thursday after a spate of fires led to injuries and property damage — along with a global marketing headache for the South Korean tech giant.
“Because this product presents such a serious fire hazard, I am urging all consumers … to take advantage of this recall right away,” said Elliot Kaye, chairman of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Samsung had already initiated a voluntary recall, but the company has been criticized for not offering clear information about the problem or how it would be resolved. While speaking with reporters, Kaye appeared to blast Samsung for not coordinating with his agency.
“As a general matter it’s not a recipe for a successful recall for a company to go out on its own,” he said, adding that anyone who believes a unilateral effort would be sufficient “needs to have more than their phone checked.”
Samsung has said the problem involves about 2.5 million smartphones worldwide; authorities say that includes about 1 million in the United States. While the company was previously offering to replace the phones, it will now offer consumers the choice of a replacement or a full refund.
The recall comes as Samsung is locked in a fierce battle with Apple for the attentions of high-end smartphone buyers. Apple just introduced the latest versions of its iPhone, which go on sale Friday.
Samsung had beaten Apple to market with the Note 7 by several weeks. It was drawing favorable reviews for the phone, which started at $850 in the U.S., before consumers began reporting problems with the battery overheating, sometimes causing fires or explosions.
One family in St. Petersburg, Florida, said a Galaxy Note 7 left charging in their Jeep had caught fire, destroying the vehicle.
Samsung has received 92 reports of the batteries…