Samsung and Oppo Facing Phone Bloatware Charges in China
Samsung and a Chinese vendor, Oppo, were accused in a Shanghai court Monday of putting malicious software onto its smartphones, such that it made the phones perform sub-optimally, and furthermore made it impossible for phone owners to effectively remove the “bloatware.”
The case being brought against the manufacturer is a first in Chinese history, with a consumer rights organization saying that an electronics maker intentionally sold a bad product. The models that the Shanghai Consumer Commission looked at were the Oppo X9007 and the Samsung SM-N9008S, both of which were found to contain software that the owner had no say over. The Samsung phone contained more than 20 extra applications and gave the user no indication on how to remove them, which seems to be the most offensive part to the Shanghai Consumer Commission.
In fact, the overwhelming purpose of the lawsuit is to compel the two companies to not pre-install unnecessary software in the future, or, if they’re going to install it, then to provide users clear instructions on how to remove the software. So far financial damages have not been mentioned in the Chinese press, although if a precedent were set, then later damages could come. This is different from the way that many Western governments conduct business, where a charge is levied, and then a fine is almost the guaranteed outcome.
The case brings to light a long-running frustration of Android users, wherein each device manufacturer essentially has their operating system installed, and it can be dangerous to try and remove too much of the software they have there by default. This creates a situation where, with very limited phone space, many users are unable to continue using their phone after a certain period, for lack of storage.
The problem is compounded by the fact that over time, apps get bigger and bandwidth increases. A cycle is therefore created in which the user must continually upgrade, which is to the advantage of the phone maker. The Shanghai Consumer Commission’s case against Samsung could either set the precedent that Samsung is allowed to install whatever they want, so long as the user knows about it. It could also create a situation where the phone customers have a lot more say over what is on the phone when they buy it.
The companies have the next fifteen days to begin preparing their defenses or to ask for extensions, or any other thing that might be possible in a Chinese court, before the court will move on to setting a trial. Historically speaking, companies had not done well against the Chinese government, with Google eventually having to pull up stakes when it realized its very business model was antithetical to the government’s policies.
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