S. Korea plans to tighten battery regulations post Note7 crisis

A government agency agreed with Samsung's view that faulty batteries caused the Note7 to overheat

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Credit: Martyn Williams

In the wake of the Note7 debacle, South Korea is introducing new tests and regulations to ensure battery and smartphone safety, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy (MOTIE) said.

The new measures will include requiring manufacturers to certify the safety of lithium-ion batteries based on new technologies in the process of production.

The announcement Monday by MOTIE also agrees with the analysis by Samsung Electronics and some experts on the cause of the overheating and even explosions of some Galaxy Note7 smartphones.

Samsung, backed by experts from Exponent, TUV Rheinland and UL, said in January that the overheating of some Note7 phones was likely caused by the faulty design and manufacturing of batteries by two suppliers, rather than by the design of the smartphone itself.

An investigation by MOTIE affiliate Korean Agency for Technology and Standards (KATS) also found that a combination of flaws in battery design and manufacturing processes “were highly likely” to cause fires, as “no particular abnormalities were observed in the smartphone devices,” MOTIE said in a statement.

KATS, for example, found damages by fire in the negative electrode close to the positive tab in a considerable number of batteries, according to the ministry.

Following reports of overheating of the phones, Samsung announced a recall of the Note7 in early September. But the replacement phones, which had batteries from another supplier, were also found to show the same problems, prompting the company to expand the recall to all Note7 devices and to kill the product. The recall involved about 3 million phones, Samsung said.

The South Korean government is now planning to introduce more types of tests and request sample products from manufacturers when needed. By October it plans to modify the enforcement part of a local rule, the Electrical Appliances and Consumer Products Safety Control Act. It will be consulting with industry and consumer groups to reduce the impact of the new regulations on market competition.

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