By Cho Jin-seo
A consumer rights group is asking Samsung Electronics to recall or provide a refund for some of its plasma TVs following numerous reports of screen blackout and severe color distortion.
Hundreds of customers have complained about such malfunctions on four of Samsung's 42-inch TV models this month on the Web site Korea Consumer, a consumer activist group, and on an Internet community of Naver portal site. Many complaints provided photographs and camcorder images as evidence.
The bad publicity is expected to deal a blow to the plasma TV and panel makers who have already been struggling with a supply glut and falling prices. Plasma technology has been losing ground to liquid-crystal display (LCD) technology on the flat-screen TV market.
Samsung said it is seeking ways to settle the problem and that extending the warranty to two years from the current one year can be a plausible solution. But the firm ruled out any possibility of a product recall.
``This is not cause for a recall. A company recalls a product only when it has many problems or there is a safety issue,'' a Samsung spokesperson said, adding that it was also not reasonable to pay compensation to consumers who had already paid to fix the bug.
The models reported having the screen trouble are the SPD-42S5HD, SPD-42S5HDM, SPD-42P5HD and SPD-42P5HDM. They were manufactured between 2005 and 2006 and were sold at stores until early this year. So in many cases, their one-year service warranty had just expired, which made consumers feel even more angry.
Many protestors said Samsung's service team had charged hundreds of thousands of won for repairing or replacing the panel. But on Wednesday, a few of them said the repairmen agreed to refund their money with a depreciation of 14.3 percent for one-year use.
Plasma TVs are less expensive than LCD TVs of the same size and they are generally superior in displaying fast-changing images. But on the other hand, they are generally more prone to defects and malfunctions due to their complex structure.
The government last year forced TV makers to provide a two-year warranty for LCD TV buyers. But the warranty for plasma TVs remains at one year.
Consumer Korea said it would push Samsung in its second announcement later this week.
The group is one of the most active consumer rights groups in Korea. But it has been criticized for being opportunistic in some instances. In March, the group released a report that said South Korea has the highest beef prices in the world. But later it was found that the research was partly funded by the government, which used it to promote the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement.
A photograph taken by Park Wang-jun on his SPD-42S5HD plasma TV. Samsung is investigating the case after hundreds of consumers complained of a similar malfunction.