A posting this morning from Levi Sumagaysay on SiliconValley.com indicates that electronic components and Android smartphone manufacturer Samsung has dispatched a team of inspectors to investigate a claim that one of its contract manufacturing assembly suppliers is utilizing child labor.

The posting notes that New York based Child Labor Watch, the same group that exposed poor working conditions at contract manufacturer Foxconn, are behind the latest allegations.  The CLW organization accuses HEG Electronics (Huizhou) Co. Ltd. of utilizing seven children, all under the age of 16, of working in a single department.  CLW orchestrated a group of its investigators to work within the HEG Electronics factory during the months of June and July as the basis of the allegation. The CLW report further indicates that while the precise number of total underage workers is unknown, this organization suspects that 50 to 100 children may be working at this facility.

According to the CLW investigative report, HEG Electronics is an important supplier for Samsung, assembling products such as mobile phones, DVD’s, stereo equipment and MP3 players.  The report indicates that the HEG web site identifies Motorola and LG as other prominent customers. It further identifies social responsibility auditing firm Intertek, the labor audit services provider to Samsung, of overlooking violations because some auditors have accepted bribes. According to the SiliconValley.com and a separate Bloomberg published report, a Samsung spokesman indicated that two inspections of HEG’s working conditions were conducted this year with no “irregularities.”

In his posting, Sumagaysay points out that while Apple has been in the global spotlight of suspect labor practices among its major suppliers, the timing of this latest allegation comes in the same week as the Apple-Samsung patent infringement trail.

This is a development that is certain to gain continued visibility by Silicon Valley social and business media but beyond that, has continued implications for consumer electronics manufacturers and their supply chains.

Bob Ferrari