A new lawsuit places Samsung’s claims of running an ethical business into question, calling attention to alleged child labor in African cobalt mines. French consumer watchdog UFC-Que Choisir initiated the litigation in question last week, accusing the South Korean conglomerate and its French subsidiary of systematically deceptive marketing practices. According to the plaintiff, Samsung built the image of a fair-trade, ethical business on misleading claims, ultimately failing to live up to the public commitments it made on the matter.
UFC-Que Choisir described Samsung’s insistence on the ethical foundation of its business as an example of “persistent malpractice” which violates the public trust it enjoys. It dubbed the purported transgressions as “fairwashing” of the company’s image.
It’s about forcing the stated principles into practice, plaintiff says
Besides allegations of child labor at cobalt mines in Congo, the lawsuit mentions long-time suspicions of forced labor in China and toxic chemical exposure incidents in South Korea as examples of ethically unacceptable business practices Samsung continues to turn a blind eye toward, citing reports from Amnesty International, UNICEF and China Labor Watch, among others. The issues stemming from questionable supplier business practices are exacerbated by the ongoing global pandemic which presents a huge threat to human lives in such poor working conditions, according to the group. Ultimately, the lawsuit’s stated aim is to force Samsung into putting its stated principles into practice.
Human rights advocacy organizations ActionAid France and Sherpa filed a similar lawsuit against Samsung in July of 2019. That case is still ongoing and will likely take numerous more years to be resolved. Samsung doesn’t practice commenting on ongoing litigation proceedings.