The Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa (ASASA) has ruled that the Xperia Z1 cannot be marketed as being “waterproof”. This follows a complaint from a woman who claims the device stopped working a day after she had used it in water. She claims that all ports were closed but the phone still stopped working.
A Sony repair centre said that the phone ports were not properly shut and would not repair the handset under warranty. Her carrier also wouldn’t repair the phone insisting that the Xperia Z1 is merely “water resistant” and not “waterproof” as claimed by Sony. Therefore the woman was left with a ZAR 9,000 (£500, €636, $805) paperweight.
Sony’s response to the matter was that her carrier was wrong in asserting that the device is only water-resistant. However, the ASASA ruled that “the semantic difference between a term such as “waterproof” and “water resistant” might carry two very different meanings”.
Therefore, Sony can no longer describe the Xperia Z1 as being “waterproof” in South Africa. It will be interesting to see whether similar judgements get passed in other countries. Sony’s new Xperia Z3 series have the highest level of dust and water resistance found in a mobile device (IP68 certified), however they still have ports that leave the phone susceptible to damage if left open.
Excerpt from ASASA ruling on promoting the Sony Xperia Z1 as “waterproof”
The Directorate notes that some of the marketing material available on the respondent’s website indicates that the claim of being “waterproof” is not intended to be an absolute claim. The “White paper | XperiaTM Z1” document states, inter alia, that the phone is “Smart, sleek and waterproof*”, but then caveats this statement by commenting as follows:
“And due to its IP55/IP58 rating, this slim and sleek smartphone is both water and dust resistant …”
“… is protected against the ingress of dust and is waterproof. Provided that all the covers for the micro USB port, the micro SIM slot and the memory card slot are firmly closed, the phone is (i) protected against low pressure jets from all practicable directions … and/or (ii) can be kept under 1.50 metres of freshwater for up to 30 minutes … For more information, go to www.sonymobile.com/zperia-z1-waterresistant”.
“… The phone is not designed to float or work outside the IP55 and IP58 classification range that may lead to your warranty being void …”
It can be accepted that, depending on the context, the semantic difference between a term such as “waterproof” and “water resistant” might carry two very different meanings to the hypothetical reasonable person.
Common dictionary definitions for “waterproof” includes explanations such as “not penetrable by water”, or “impervious to water”, whereas “water-resistant” is generally described and defined as something that is able to resist water (usually for a limited time), but that is not entirely able to prevent the penetration of water.
It is apparent from the above that the phone’s capabilities appear to be more aligned with what is commonly understood to be “water-resistant”. From the respondent’s submissions as well as the information obtained in its marketing material and on its website, it is clear that the phone can effectively resist or repel fresh water, only up to a depth of 1,5m, and only for a limited time.
Accordingly the term “waterproof” in a context that appears to align with “water-resistant” is misleading, and in contravention of Clause 4.2.1 of Section II of the Code.
Given the above finding:
The word “waterproof” in relation to this phone must be withdrawn;
The process to withdraw the word “waterproof” in relation to this phone must be actioned with immediate effect on receipt of ruling;
The withdrawal of the word “waterproof” must be completed within the deadlines stipulated by Clause 15.3 of the Procedural Guide; and
The word “waterproof” may not be used again in relation to this phone in manner that suggests anything other than water-resistant capabilities.
The respondent’s attention is drawn to the provisions of Clause 15.5 of the Procedural Guide, which effectively requires it to amend its advertising on all media platforms where the device in question is being promoted.