Orange and O2 recalled Samsung chargers from all of their stores in response to revelations that Samsung discovered counterfeit chargers in the warehouse of 20:20 Mobile.
Chargers were pulled from the shelves and stockrooms of stores between Friday and Saturday last week (6-7 March), as news emerged that 20:20 had been struck off by Samsung after fake chargers were found in a random audit, two weeks ago.
Stock in the operators’ warehouses was also being analysed, with co-operation from Samsung. Chargers in Orange’s Banbury warehouse were given the all clear last week, and O2 was still investigating as Mobile went to press.
A spokeswoman for Orange said: ‘While we do not believe that our Samsung chargers are counterfeit, as a precaution for the protection of our customers we have pulled them from our stores so we can investigate this issue fully.’
20:20 has maintained that it has not dealt in fake chargers, and the counterfeit products in the audit were part of a ‘returns loop’.
The distributor’s UK managing director, James Browning, said: ‘20:20 Mobile has strict procedures in place to ensure that products sent to customers are authentic – this includes certification, batch tracking and testing.’
Both Orange and O2 are tied in to long-term deals to buy accessories from Dextra (the accessories division of 20:20, and now integrated into the distributor). Dextra agreed a Europe-wide accessories deal worth £30m with Orange’s parent company, France Telecom, in August 2005. Meanwhile, O2 awarded Dextra a £20m accessories contract in May 2005.
Sources at Orange and O2 said the networks were ‘reviewing their distribution arrangements’ in light of the appearance of fake chargers in 20:20’s supply chain.
Retailers including Tesco, Argos, Morrisons and Asda concluded there is no risk to their customers after investigating the matter and discussing with 20:20.
In the case of Asda, the supermarket said it only sells third-party chargers.
Virgin briefs call centres about chargers
Virgin Mobile briefed all of its call centres on Friday (6 March) ahead of potential customer complaints about faulty chargers, and after discussing the matter with Samsung.
Virgin’s head of trading, Rhiannon Jones, said although the company hadn’t bought Samsung products directly from 20:20 for 12 months, it couldn’t rule out Samsung chargers obtained by Virgin’s indirect partners, via 20:20.
Jones said: ‘We will have information for customers, including how they can swap a non-genuine charger for a genuine one.’
She added: ‘This hasn’t triggered an immediate response on our distributor arrangements, but we will bear it in mind for the future.’