On Your Side: Faulty Samsung Fridges Pt. 3

FOX 4 has an update to a story we have been following for the last year about faulty Samsung fridges.

The company has settled nearly $10 million in disputes with dissatisfied customers.

So how does Samsung continue to rank so high when it comes to customer satisfaction?

When it comes to what we buy, there's often a reason why.

Consumers complaining about their faulty Samsung fridges which flood, freeze over and don't keep food cold say their reason ‘why’ was the high praise they saw for customer satisfaction by consumer index groups, like the prestigious JD Power.

They saw the JD Power Award at the point of sale in the store and thought they could trust that. Now, they have a disaster on their hands.

JD Power declined an on-camera interview but did say they don't rate companies. Instead, they just tabulate and report ratings that come directly from consumer surveys.

That's how the sign at a store can give Samsung a #1 while more than 100,000 members of the Facebook support group, "Samsung Refrigerator Recall USA Now," would disagree.

The group members say that not only is their purchase unreliable, but customer service is so bad that they've complained to the Better Business Bureau, which currently gives Samsung an A+ rating despite more than 20,000 complaints in the last three years. 

On Your Side: Faulty Samsung Fridges Pt. 2

"It's not atypical for a large company such as that to have that many complaints, honestly," said Melissa Companick, President and CEO of the BBB of New Jersey.

"Let's put it in perspective.  Lg has 4400, Sony has 361 and Panasonic has 64.  Do you still think 20,000+ is an appropriate number?" asked Consumer Reporter Steve Noviello.

"I don't know if those numbers are accurate so," Companick said.

"I looked them up today," Noviello said.

"So, it's from the BBB website? Then, yes," Companick said. "20,000 sounds like a lot of complaints, but those complaints are resolved."

Not so, say the folks FOX 4 spoke with. Dozens are crying foul, saying the BBB never responded, that the resolution is far from done and even questioning the use of the word "resolved."

"They might tell you they're unhappy, but that doesn't mean they've told us they're unhappy with the outcome of their complaint," Companick said.

Complaints are kind of like currency at the BBB. Just one unanswered complaint could have serious consequences for a company.

On Your Side: Faulty Samsung Fridge

"They could have an A+ rating one day. And if they have a complaint that they fail to respond to, their rating could change to an F," Companick said.

Samsung has held at least a B rating since 2010.

"Is a BBB rating a guarantee of a company's performance or reliability?" Noviello asked.

"Actually no, it’s not," Companick said.

But the American Consumer Satisfaction Index is, at least according to Samsung.

In response to FOX 4’s last report, Samsung cited its #1 rating with that index as proof of "reliability and customer service."

"The idea is to bring sort of the academic rigor to market research," said Forrest Morgeson, the Emeritus Director of Research for the ACSI.

Last year, Samsung scored 80 out of a possible 100 points, which was enough to make them #1 or not worse than their competitors.

"The national average at the moment is around 74," Morgeson said. "So that puts it six points above."

He admits because the market is flooded with consumer choice, their research often encounters mostly happy customers  

"By default, over time you end up getting on average pretty satisfied customers because those who aren't satisfied with a company will leave that company when they have the opportunity to do so," Morgeson explained.

So FOX 4 asked him to take a look at the 100,00-plus unhappy people we found on Facebook. 

"When you look at that group, you have a huge number of people who are saying, ‘I thought I was the only one. Samsung told me this was an isolated incident. I can't believe there are 100,000 people in here with the same problem.’ Does that sound like these are satisfied consumers?" Noviello asked.

"For them, absolutely not," Morgeson said.

To tabulate their #1 rating, the ACSI surveyed between 800 and 1,000 consumers who bought any Samsung appliance in the last three years. The index would not confirm if that included a single Samsung fridge.

Noviello says he’s not suggesting people shouldn't trust these indices, but people should understand what questions are asked and what the answers mean. In one case, #1 seems to mean "not worse than anyone else." In another, an A+ doesn’t mean reliable but rather it means responsive.

FOX 4 reached out to Samsung with more questions, but we did not get our usual written statement. This time, we got no reply at all.