Chinese consumer watchdog pushes back on Xiaomi’s claim over ‘inappropriate’ safety standards for phone covers

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 April, 2018, 3:49pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 April, 2018, 9:22am

The Shenzhen Consumer Council has refuted claims by China’s No 4 smartphone maker Xiaomi that applying European standards for baby-care products to phone covers is inappropriate, with the watchdog saying it believes babies would be inclined to bite the covers so a higher standard is necessary. 

The application of the most stringent standard is required to protect the health of consumers, the Shenzhen Consumer Council said on its official Weibo account on Friday night.

The consumer watchdog investigated 30 popular mobile phone covers from 28 popular brands, including Apple, Xiaomi and Huawei. It found that seven phone covers from five brands – Apple, Xiaomi, Tiya, Yuening and Q-Guo – contained toxic substances that exceeded the European standard, according to its report released last Thursday.

In a statement responding to the findings on Friday, Xiaomi said there was no relevant national and industrial standard for mobile phone protective covers in China. It added that the European standard adopted by the council was intended for children’s tableware and utensils and should not be applied to mobile phone cases.

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Xiaomi identified 15 test indicators which it said have been strictly implemented in production to ensure the quality of the product. “Xiaomi covers are safe to use for consumers,” the company said in a statement.

China is the world’s largest smartphone market, with almost 450 million handsets shipped last year. However, the number of phone covers sold could top that number as local Chinese media reports suggest 75 per cent of consumers will purchase a cover for their phone and Chinese consumers also change phone covers more frequently than changing their phones. 

The harmful substances found in the consumer council tests were mainly lead, plasticiser and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon, which can damage organs and even lead to cancer. Plasticiser in Xiaomi’s phone covers reached a level of 17 per cent, 170 times the 0.1 per cent safe level determined by European regulators, according to the findings issued by the watchdog.

Apple’s phone covers that are priced at 288 yuan (US$45) also failed the test as the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon content was 50 times the level of the safe standard. 

The Apple and Xiaomi phone covers that did not pass the tests are both official products sold through their authorised channels in China.

Apple did not reply to an emailed query sent Monday.

23 of the 30 tested samples still did not detect any toxic or hazardous substances
Shenzhen Consumer Council

“Although we have applied the most stringent international standards to carry out the phone covers test, 23 of the 30 tested samples still did not detect any toxic or hazardous substances,” the Shenzhen Consumer Council said, adding that Huawei, Vivo and phone covers sold on NetEase’s e-commerce website all passed the test. 

The council said two thirds of consumers buy smartphones covers online, where 90 per cent of them were priced below 50 yuan. A phone cover featuring rhinestone and glitter powder was found to be 1,550 times greater than the European limit in terms of lead levels.

Xiaomi’s phone covers are mostly priced below 50 yuan with the cheapest one as low as 9 yuan, while Apple’s iPhone covers are mostly priced between 300 and 400 yuan, with the most expensive ones costing 788 yuan, according to their respective official websites.