Consumers to sue Coway over defective water purifiers

Consumers in South Korea are reportedly preparing to file civil and criminal suits against local water purifier rental company Coway over its cover-up of defective ice water purifiers containing nickel.

Thousands of Coway customers have formed legal action groups through online communities and are getting in touch with lawyers to determine further actions, according to local news reports.

One online community against Coway has already amassed 2,700 members in just two days, with more than 400 people who have expressed interest in a group lawsuit, reports say.

The numbers are expected to grow.

Coway has recalled three of its ice water purifier models: CHPI-380N (CPI-380N), CHPCI-430N and CPSI-370N. Some 87,000 ice water purifiers, installed between April 2014 and December 2015, are said to be impacted.

“We deeply apologize to consumers regarding the ice water purifiers,” the company said in a statement Wednesday. “We decided to compensate all renters of the products to alleviate their concerns.”

The value of recalled purifiers is estimated to be around 53.8 billion won ($ 46.4 million), accounting for 2.33 percent of the company’s revenue last year. Coway plans to fully refund the rental fee of the products in question and replace them with a new model. No cancellation charges will be levied on consumers who want to stop using the firm’s services.

The company also said it would take full responsibility if any health issues arise.

The company’s apology and recall plan, however, has done little to quench public outrage, as local news reports have revealed that Coway had been aware of the defect from a year ago, but had not notified customers.

Instead of notifying consumers of its findings back then, Coway had repaired and exchanged the affected products through its after-sales service, a move which has infuriated local consumers.

By Won Ho-jung (