Samsung hit with lawsuit over misleading advertising related to alleged human rights violations

  • The lawsuit has been filed by two non-governmental organizations in a Paris court
  • Human rights violations allegedly took place in Samsung factories in China and South Korea
  • Samsung is not accused of human rights violations, but of misleading advertising because published on its website are ethical commitments that guarantee workers' rights
People walk past an advertisement for the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge smartphone in Berlin, Germany.
Getty Images
People walk past an advertisement for the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge smartphone in Berlin, Germany.

Samsung is being sued in France for misleading advertising related to alleged workers' rights violations.

The lawsuit was filed by two non-governmental organizations (NGOs), Sherpa and ActionAid France, in a Paris court on Thursday.

It names Samsung Global, the electronics giant's worldwide parent company, and local subsidiary Samsung Electronics France.

Sherpa and ActionAid France claim to have gathered evidence from a number of sources, including the NGO China Labor Watch, which they say infiltrated Samsung factories in China and South Korea to reveal human rights violations.

Some of the alleged violations include exploitation of children under 16 and excessive working hours, as well as the use of certain chemicals that have led to incurable diseases for some employees.

Samsung is not accused of human rights violations, however, but of misleading advertising because published on its website are ethical commitments that guarantee workers' rights.

"Everything we do is guided by a moral compass that ensures fairness, respect for all stakeholders and complete transparency," Samsung says on its website.

The NGOs argue that Samsung is engaging in misleading advertising by allegedly violating human rights, even though it claims otherwise online.

"The gap between these ethical commitments and the reality in factories as described by the NGOs is unacceptable and should be sanctioned," Sherpa and ActionAid France said in a press release Thursday.

Samsung has not commented on the allegations and has yet to reply to a request for comment by CNBC.

It's not the first time that Samsung's supply chain has been placed under scrutiny. In 2014, it promised to pay compensation to employees who got cancer while working at its semiconductor plants across South Korea, after a nine-year legal battle.