France: Samsung Electronics indicted for misleading advertising re. alleged labour abuses & child labour in China, S. Korea & Vietnam

Samsung Electronics is facing charges over alleged labour abuses and child labour in France following a complaint filed by Sherpa and ActionAid France on 25 June 2018 against Samsung France and its parent company in South Korea. ActionAid and Sherpa have accused Samsung of misleading advertising as they say it touts ethical commitments to workers' rights that it does not respect in its factories in China, South Korea and Vietnam. Alleged violations include child labour, health and safety breaches and other labour abuses. The decision to investigate Samsung is historic, as it is rare for a French company to be sued by the courts for its activities abroad.

Samsung has provided a repsonse to the case, saying it disputes the validity of the legal complaint. Its full response is included below.

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Company response
8 July 2019

Samsung's response to Sherpa case

Author: Samsung Electronics

... We are aware of the legal complaint against Samsung... We are disputing its validity, and cannot comment further on the content of the investigation since this is an ongoing proceeding. We wish to remove any ambiguity created by the word “indicted”... Samsung France has been put under examination, which means that the investigation is still ongoing and that no conclusive decision has been taken regarding the allegations...

The issues highlighted by SHERPA date back several years, and concern reports or incidents to which Samsung has responded previously. We wish to share with you specifically how we have dealt and are dealing with Child Labor, responsible minerals as well as our commitments to uphold labor and human rights.

Samsung upholds a zero tolerance policy on child labor - both in our own facilities and the facilities of our suppliers...  all of our subsidiaries and suppliers, and not only in China, must comply with the strict employment process (age verification) to prevent child labor employment...

...we have been investigating all cobalt smelters related to our company...

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4 July 2019

France: NGOs file complaint against Samsung over failure to abide to ethical pledges

Author: The Malaysian Reserve

"Samsung could end up in French court over ethics pledges: NGOs", 3 July 2019

Samsung Electronics could end up in the dock...for not abiding by its own ethics pledges...two NGOs said on Wednesday.

...A complaint filed against the French subsidiary of the smartphone giant by activist groups Sherpa and ActionAid France – Peuples Solidaires, has led an investigating magistrate in Paris to filing preliminary charges...

...Accused by various NGOs of violating human rights at some of its factories...the two French pressure groups said the actions amount to a breach of the pledges that Samsung makes on its website...

...“This is the first time in France that it was recognised that corporate ethics pledges may be considered marketing practices that are binding on a firm,” the activist groups said in a statement.

...The NGOs originally filed their complaint a year ago, but the investigating magistrate in Paris has now decided to pursue the case after quizzing an executive of Samsung France, the statement said...

...The plaintiffs argue that because the ethics pledges are easily readable on Samsung’s website by French consumers, the French judiciary is competent to handle the case and issue a ruling...

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4 July 2019

France: Samsung indicted for misleading advertising amidst alleged human rights violations

Author: ActionAid

"Landmark indictment of Samsung France for misleading advertising", 3 July 2019

...After an epic judicial procedure initiated in France by Sherpa and ActionAid more than six years ago, Samsung Electronics France SAS has been indicted for misleading advertising...

...many NGOs have...highlighted violations such as the employment of children...abusive working hours, working conditions and accommodation incompatible with human dignity and endangering workers’ lives.

This indictment comes after a new complaint was filed by Sherpa and ActionAid France on June 25, 2018 against Samsung France and the parent company in South Korea...Samsung...must now report on its commitments to the courts....

...Sandra Cossart, director at Sherpa...“Companies that benefit from their proclaimed virtuous image must no longer be able to violate their own commitments without facing legal consequences...It is now urgent to globally regulate the activities of multinationals by ensuring the adoption of the International Treaty, and to put in application the historic law on the duty of vigilance adopted in France in 2017.”...

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4 July 2019

Samsung indicted for misleading advertising following complaint regarding workers’ rights violations

Author: Asso Sherpa

"Violations of workers’ rights: landmark indictment of SAMSUNG France for misleading advertising", 3 July 2019

...Samsung Electronics France SAS has been indicted on misleading an investigating judge at the Tribunal de Grande Instance de Paris.

SAMSUNG displays ethical commitments on workers’ rights that it does not respect in its factories...many NGOs denounce fundamental rights’ violations in serious investigations reports...

“Companies that benefit from their proclaimed virtuous image must no longer be able to violate their own commitments without facing legal consequences. It is now urgent to regulate globally the activities of multinational by ensuring the adoption of the International Treaty, and to put in application the historic law on the duty of vigilance adopted in France in 2017”...Sandra Cossart, director at Sherpa.

Chloe Stevenson, ActionAid France campaigner, “workers are often the first victims of human rights violations related to multinationals activities like Samsung. Making this type of ethical commitment binding would also be a way to prevent the reproduction of such abuses.”

Li Qiang, Executive Director of China Labor Watch: “Samsung has decreased their production facilities in China, however, they’ve shifted these to other countries where they continue to violate the rights of workers. We hope that Samsung will uphold the rights of workers and make fundamental improvements to working conditions across their supply chain.”

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23 June 2019

Report finds exploitative working conditions in Samsung factories across Asia

Author: Hankyoreh (South Korea)

"Worked to death at the ripe age of 22", 23 June 2019

...Hankyoreh reporters visited nine cities in Vietnam, India, and Indonesia...this is the first attempt by a media organization to link the situation in South Korea with other countries.

...This five-part series will be assessing Samsung Electronics’ sustainability...

...Samsung is exploiting the young people of Asia...Youth who are hired as irregular workers stick with grueling jobs with the hope of a permanent position only to be kicked out of the job when they reach their mid-20s. Though Samsung prides itself on being one of the world’s leading companies, its working conditions are barely sufficient for these workers to keep food on the table.

At Samsung Electronics plants in India, Vietnam, and Indonesia, Hankyoreh reporters found that the company was engaged in various activities that either skirted local laws and international standards or overtly violated them. Workers at plants in these countries shared their personal experiences with violations of minimum wage and probationary worker laws, forced labor, unfair termination, and verbal abuse, among other matters.

This violates Samsung’s promise to protect labor rights and the rights of overseas workers…stipulated in the migrant workers’ guidelines that the company announced in 2016. It also violates the company’s declaration to strictly comply with international norms…

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14 November 2018

Judicial investigation launched against Samsung following complaint over misleading practices and compensation for ill workers and families of the deceased

Author: Asso Sherpa

"Opening of a judicial investigation in Paris in the Samsung case", 14 November 2018

 As a judicial investigation was launched in France, Samsung has recognized exposing its workers to toxic chemicals without adequately protecting and informing them about the toxicity of products handled in its Korean factories....

...An investigating judge was nominated following the complaint filed..for misleading commercial practices by Sherpa and ActionAid Peuples-Solidaires against Samsung Electronics France, and its South Korean parent company, Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.​​​​...

...The mediation panel set up to propose a compensation for ill workers and the legal successors of deceased workers gave out its decision..This...puts an end to more than a decade-long dispute between the company, ill workers and family members of former employees now deceased.

..."More than ever, the discrepancy between the reality of working conditions of employees, their serious illnesses, the deaths of former workers and the ethical engagement of SAMSUNG must be sanctioned by the French justice. We welcome the opening of the judicial investigation by Judge Renaud van Ruymbeke in front of the Paris court," said Marie-Laure Guislain, head of Litigation at Sherpa.

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