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Samsung faces charges over alleged labour abuses in factories in Asia

Two NGOs accused Samsung France of misleading advertising for making ethical commitments to workers' rights whilst allegedly abusing labour rights in its factories in China, South Korea & Vietnam. Alleged abuses include child labour & unsafe working conditions, including the use of toxic chemicals without adequate protection.

Business & Human Rights Consortium reports that since 2013, the human rights and workers' rights organizations Sherpa, ActionAid France – Peuples Solidaires and Indecosa-CGT have filed various claims against Samsung Electronics and its subsidiaries in different French courts. The organizations assert that Samsung's public ethical commitments constitute misleading advertising in light of evidence of alleged human rights violations in the companies' factories in China, Vietnam and South Korea.

On 26 February 2013, the three claimants submitted a complaint to the Public Prosecutor against Samsung France and X (in French civil procedure, a complaint lodged against X allows a defendant to bring an action against a person whose identity they do not know). The organizations allege misleading advertising practices, based on the incompatibility between Samsung's public ethical commitment to being a "socially responsible" company and a report from China Labor Watch which alleges frequent unpaid overtime, the absence of adequate safety measures, and compulsory work practices in Samsung's subcontractors factories in China.

On 17 December 2015, Sherpa and Indecosa-CGT summoned Samsung Global and its subsidiary, Samsung Electronics France, to appear before the Court of Bobigny for deceptive marketing practices. According to Sherpa, this was the first time that consumer protection laws were used in France to file a case against a multinational company in relation to alleged human rights violations in its foreign subsidiaries.

Based on additional evidence (including from 2014 and 2015 reports by China Labor Watch) the lawsuit alleges the use child labour, unpaid overtime, absence of adapted security measures for employees performing dangerous tasks, use of carcinogenic substances, and the exercise of moral pressure and physical violence by employers. Moreover, the organizations added the South Korean parent company, Samsung Electronics Co., in the legal action in order to circumvent Samsung France's argument denying all liability with regards to its head office.

On 11 January 2018, Sherpa and ActionAid France – Peuples solidaires filed a new lawsuit against Samsung Electronics France and its South Korean parent company, Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd in front of the Tribunal de Grande Instance in Paris, alleging misleading business practices. The evidence gathered for this lawsuit includes reports by China Labor Watch documenting the exploitation of children under sixteen, excessive working hours, dangerous working conditions due to lack of proper equipment, working conditions and accommodation incompatible with human dignity, and the presence of benzene and methanol in Korean factories, which presents a health hazard for employees.

On 25 June 2018, Sherpa and ActionAid France - Peuples solidaires filed a civil party lawsuit to the Paris court following the closing of the case by the Bobigny public prosecutor. The organizations argue that evidence of working conditions at Samsung LCD in Korea and Vietnam are linked to serious diseases developed by workers justifies the request for instruction by an investigating judge.

On 1 November 2018, following mediation procedure, Samsung recognised exposing its South Korean factory workers to toxic chemicals and agreed to pay compensation for each employee suffering from work-related diseases.

On 17 April 2019, an investigating judge of a Paris Tribunal indicted Samsung Electronic France for misleading advertising. 


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