U.S. regulators issue official recall of Samsung Note 7 smartphones

U.S. regulators are issuing an official recall of Samsung's Galaxy Note 7 phone because of the risk that its batteries can explode or catch fire.

Customers will now be offered full refunds, not just replacement devices, if they choose

The Note series is one of Samsung's most expensive, and demand for the Note 7 had been high before a few dozen devices exploded or caught fire. (Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters)

U.S. regulators issued an official recall of Samsung's Galaxy Note 7 phone on Thursday because of a risk of fire.

Samsung already has voluntarily recalled the devices after a few dozen phones exploded or caught fire. That was out of about 2.5 million phones sold.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is stepping in on a formal recall. Its chairman, Elliot Kaye, blasted Samsung for trying to do the recall on its own, saying that anyone who believes that to be adequate "needs to have more than their phone checked."

Samsung promised replacement devices, but that was put on hold while regulators reviewed the situation. Kaye said customers will now be offered full refunds, not just replacement devices, if they choose. Note 7 owners need to contact Samsung and provide a number from the back of the phone to determine whether that unit is at risk.

Kaye said about one million devices are affected.

Health Canada also issues recall

Health Canada and Samsung Canada issued a product recall earlier this week, noting that they received one report of a phone battery overheating. No injuries were reported. It states approximately 22,000 of the recalled phones were sold in Canada.

Customers who were sold a Note 7 between Aug. 19 and Sept. 1 can apply to receive either a new Note 7 or one of Samsung's other current smartphones, the Galaxy S7 or Galaxy S7 Edge. No refund options are currently available in Canada.

Canadian mobile tech site MobileSyrup reports that Samsung is planning to ship replacement devices by Sept. 19, but some have already received their new units.

Canadians can apply for a replacement unit by filling out this form. Samsung Canada has also set up a phone line, 1-800-517-3507, specifically to address questions about the recall and exchange program.

The recall comes at a crucial time for Samsung, as its rival Apple just announced its own latest versions of the iPhones, which go on sale Friday. The Note series is one of Samsung's most expensive and demand for the phone had been high.

U.S. aviation safety officials also have taken the unusual step of warning airline passengers not to turn on or charge the phone during flights, or put them in checked bags

with files from CBC News