Apple Store's Warranty Approach Contradicts Australian Consumer Law

Nationwide consumer protection laws entitle you to take a product back to the place that sold it if there's a problem and seek either a fix or a refund. However, Apple seems to want to ignore that requirement.

Picture by Yagan Kiely

After we covered the new laws recently, Lifehacker reader Matt wrote in to point out that Apple doesn't seem too keen on those provisions. This is what the Apple Store site has to say to customers seeking support:

If you're having trouble with your new Apple product, please visit online Product Support or contact Apple technical support. If you're having trouble with a non-Apple product, please contact the manufacturer directly for information regarding the manufacturer's warranty.

At the most basic level, this simply isn't on. As the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), which ensures the laws are followed, explained in its announcement of the new consistent national approach:

In most cases consumers are entitled to seek a remedy from the seller or service provider and businesses must honour these obligations.

Undoubtedly there are circumstances where Apple's initial response might be to put you in contact with the manufacturer — that could easily happen if, for instance, there's a tricky issue with software. But Apple can't simply tell you to find those details yourself, and if the product is demonstrably not fit for purpose on a basic level, it has an obligation as a retailer to resolve the issue — an obligation which no amount of setting its own "conditions" can absolve.

Note also that if a product manufacturer offers an extension to your basic warranty rights (referred to as an "express warranty"), then the obligation to ensure that is met rests with the supplier who sells it as well. Here's what the ACCC says about that:

An express warranty is not necessarily about the product breaking, it is about it living up to promises. Suppliers and manufacturers both guarantee goods will meet express warranties. This means you can insist a supplier meets their responsibilities under the consumer guarantees to fix a problem, even if it is covered by other warranties, such as a manufacturer's warranty.

So if you have purchased a third-party product from Apple and it doesn't live up to its specifications or warranty, Apple can't pretend that is simply the manufacturer's problem.

While Apple has a generally good reputation for support, its record when it comes to warranty issues is not exactly spotless. It has been in consumer affairs battles over this issue before. And it has long sought to have the iPhone exempted from general requirements to offer warranty support for phones on 24-month contracts, though that has finally happened with phones sold through Optus.

As a consumer you are responsible for making sure a product meets your needs and that you're happy with it. But if you've done that and there's an issue, don't let Apple or any other retailer try and fob you off if you need a problem resolved. Thanks Matt!


Comments

    I reported on a related issue for APC a few years ago. Apple instructed third party retailers (Myer etc) to tell customers to post iPods to an address for any repair issues -- the implication at the time was that customers could not return a faulty iPod in the store. Major retailers had pre-printed flyers explaining this policy.

    Apple was extremely reluctant to admit it, but eventually had to make a public statement to me that there was no reason people could not return a faulty iPod to a retailer. I also noticed that some major retailers removed the point of sale materials instructing customers to only use the mail-in service. However, I still heard from many readers who had been refused exchange/refund in store for faulty devices.

    Truly ridiculous, i purchased an ipod touch for xmas for my partner, after a month it stopped working, took it back to DickSmith electronics, and told me i needed to go to an Apple store, mind you there's only 4 in Sydney, closest to me was 35min drive away. Ridiculous!!!

      I had that happen to me years ago at Harvey Norman. I bought an iPod shuffle and it stopped working after a week. I took it back and tried to get my money back and the kept trying to offer me a refurbished model. I told them I wanted a refund and that I didn't care what apple's global refund policy was because I bought it from Harvey Norman and they have to abide by Australian law. They backed down after I told them I had called consumer affairs.

    I know as a dealer in mobile phones / IT goods, if we recieve a faulty device in store, we'll send it back to the manufacturer to be assessed in most situations. I can see why the retailer is unreluctant to take them back, because the manufacturer (if the device is found to be outside of the manufacturers limited warranty) then they will charge the cost of the handset back to the retailer. Theres just alot of risk involved for specifically a small retailer, when the customer wants a refund as opposed to repair / replacement.

    How does that work with things bought through iTunes, in particular the AppStore then? :-/

      This is a bit different, digital stuff is still covered by the standard returns policy IF the company is based here. Given that its not, You'd have to bark at the American ACCC whatever it is - and hope to get some lenience.

      That said tho, I know with Android (dont use an iphone) we've got a 24hour turnaround if it doesnt do whats intended.

        Given that Apple operates specifically Australian pricing, I don't think that let-out would apply - and there's nothing in the consumer protection laws that excludes digital goods anyway AFAICS.

        For the purpose of retail, Apple is an Australian company. Apple Inc trades in Australia as Apple Pty Ltd and is located at Level 13, Capital Centre, 255 Pitt St, Sydney, NSW 2000, Australia.

        Is that the 24 hour return policy on app purchases you are referring to? If so, then bad news: return policy was dropped to 15 minutes in December.

      Never had a problem with iTunes purchases. Bought a track and the quality wasn't up to scratch - static noises - the money was refunded to me straight away and I got to keep the track anyway.

    In late December 2010 I bought a 27 inch refurb iMac and a Belkin AV360 Mini DisplayPort Converter via the Apple online store. Unfortunately, after just a week the Belkin AV360 wasn’t working anymore.

    Aware of Apple’s non-Apple product support stance, I contacted Belkin’s customer support first who, after going through all the “have you tried turning it on and off” steps, said they could offer me an exchange but I will need to post the device to them first before they posted back a replacement. They did suggest calling Apple to see if they offered any other solutions.

    I then called Apple Australia’s customer service whom not only offered to refund the product but arranged for TNT to pick up the device from my workplace at no extra charge. I took up Apple’s offer.

      I call bollocks, are you sure you don't work in an apple store?

      Wouldn't be the first time they sent their staff out to reply on stories that are contrary to their view on the world.

        It's not nice to refute someones story without reasonable proof. Have you had experiences that differ? If not, you should back off.

        I purchased a refurbished MacbookPro from the online store for the wife. A few months later I had a problem with the battery and so rang up support. Two days later, a representative from the local Apple reseller hand delivered a new battery to our house. You can't complain about that.

        I have also purchased both Apple and third party products from the Chadstone Apple store and returned them a few days later for an exchange unit without any issues. So I can't understand where this article is coming from.

        It sounds to me that Angus is just dissing up on Apple as he seems to have a penchant for. He probably likes the page hits it gives him. But then again, this IS a Gawker Media Site.

          Bernard, where this article is coming from is the policy Apple itself states on its site. I've pointed out in the post that it has a good support reputation generally (which has been your experience), but that is its stated policy, and pointing out its lack of validity is useful for consumers. Apple's issues with the ACCC and other bodies over its warranty policy are also a matter of record (as the linked stories demonstrate).

        Ok Angus, I'll accept that, but it would be nice if you balanced your article to indicate that there are two sides to the coin.

        I acknowledge that Apple can be a prick sometimes, but on the whole, I've found them to be best at support out of all companies I've had experience with (telstra probably the worst). The only other great experience I've had was with Dell in the early 00's who were great in fixing my laptops.

          I did point Apple has a good support reputation in many contexts. But actually that's immaterial -- doing a good job of supporting its own products is not an excuse for pushing an illegal and consumer-unfriendly policy when it comes to selling products made by others.

        The point of this piece was to highlight the changes of consumer laws starting January 1 meant that retailers now has way more responsibility for after sales support. What Lifehacker reader Matt noted is how Apple hasn’t updated/changed their policies (yet?). Apple will have to change them regardless, they have no choice.

        My comment was to show that, although such policies currently exist with Apple contracting some laws of the ACCC, I was able to have a hassle free return of a third-party product. Others, of course, may have similar/different experiences that support/deny this.

        Well it seems I'm out of line, I re-read the article a little slower this time. Sorry Angus.

        I guess I was a little annoyed at Mr. Ponting's dig at the Monkey Boy.

    Apple's blatant refusal to comply with Australian law is yet another example of their US style corporate greed, designed to prop up Apple's share price at the expense of unwitting ccustomers.

      There's a bit of anger in that reply! But whilst you may be right in that their not towing the line in this case, it's been my experience that they have provided better support than many other stores and/or manufacturers. I'm a bona-fide gadget junkie and always have to have the latest of anything, that is, I love my toys and have been through many companies support centres.

      I recently bought the new iPhone 4 from Telstra and its screen had a strong yellowish cast, Telstra didn't want to know about it. So, instead of going to an Apple support centre, I went straight to the Chadstone Apple store to see what would happen. They looked at it and gave me a new iPhone straight away. I didn't buy it from the Apple store and they didn't even attempt to send me to their hardware support centres, they just replaced it.

      On another instance, a bit un-related, I had a 2006 Macbook Pro (the fist 17inch) (yes, I buy a lot of Apple stuff) that I purchased from the Next Byte shop in Melbourne along with a 3 year Applecare warranty. To the best of my knowledge I sent the Applecare registration card in, but Apple didn't know about it. 2 days before the 3 years was up, I was having issues with the laptop. The screen wasn't working properly, the DVD drive didn't work and the battery started swelling, which I think was causing all the problems. Well I called up Apple support who informed me that I didn't have any Applecare. They asked me to send in proof, which I didn't have, so I called up Next Byte who emailed me the receipt in PDF which I forwared to Apple, which happened after the 3 year expiry. Two weeks later, Apple called me up and told me I was covered and to send it to one of their support centres. Two days later, I had a new battery, new DVD drive and new mother board. My machine was renewed. Not many other companies would do that after 3 years. Sure Apple is not perfect, but they're not evil either.

    Had the same issue with Microsoft Xbox that was purchased from WoW Sight and Sound. After a couple of weeks, the Xbox failed to work (RROD). I took it back to WoW and they said i had to send it off to Microsoft and it would be approx 6 weeks to fix. I demanded a refund and was refused. I then contacted Office of Fair Trading and explained the situation. They in turn contacted WoW and instructed them to issue a refund to me. I had great pleasure in going back into the store to collect my cash!!

    I'm by no means a fanboi but my iPhone 3GS started suffering "white screen of death" and the Apple store took one look and replaced the screen in minutes. Seems stunning to me compared to xbox 360 repair for example.

    I imagine if you didn't get reasonable warranty service and kicked up a stink in a busy Apple store they'd do anything to shut you up in front of scores of customers.

    MarioC - I hope you're kidding. How can you get anywhere in Sydney in 35 minutes let alone complain about it?

      My drive to work takes 15 minutes, so thats double my driving in a day, haha, don't worry i used to drive 1.5hrs to work.

    I am not happy with service in terms of warranty at the moment. I got my iPod touch 4th Generation for christmas which came with manufacturer defects. I went away camping straight after christmas so i was not able to return it straight away so it sat at home for nearly 2 weeks. When i got home from camping I contacted the retailer who told me to contact apple. When i contacted apple they told me they would replace it with a refurbished (not brand new out of the box) iPod. They told me it would be best to take it to an apple store. The apple store is nearly 2 hours each way so i have not had the chance to return it yet.
    i am significantly less likely to buy an apple product in the future

    My warranty claim experience with Apple is laughable. I bought an iMac which came with an Apple mouse (formerly Mighty Mouse). The track ball gums up very quickly with gunk. The stated Apple solution for this problem is to turn the mouse over and scrub the sh*t out of it on a clean piece of paper. This works for awhile, but it got to be a daily ritual. I called DSE who sold me the system and they said I had to go to Apple. Called Apple who acknowleged the fault, they gave me a return number and told me to take it to an Apple service centre 30 Klms away. I got to the centre who told me that although there were 3 staff members in the store, they did not have a technician on hand to test the mouse. Seriously? You need to be qualified to plug a mouse in to see if it works? They said I would need to leave the mouse with them, they would test it, return it to Apple, get a replacement and I could come back to pick it up. This process would take at least a week or more. There were mouses on the shelf for sale but they refused to give me one, even though I had a return number from Apple to quote. So what was I supposed to do with a computer but no mouse for the next week? I had a business to run. And why should I have to travel 120 klms in total to get a mouse replaced under warranty?
    Solution? I purchased a $5 mouse from a discount shop on the way home. It is still running perfectly 12 months later.

    Last week i bought a MacBook Pro i5 15" i asked about the DOA period (I work for an importer that import Computer Components) He told me Apple have no DOA period and if their was a problem i would have to send it away to Apple and it would be dealt with like any other Warranty ? WTF is that ?

    Lucky everything was ok, but still...... I told him if it didn't work, I will bring it back and demand a full refund because the "7 day cooling off period" would apply.

    and yet idiots still keep buying Apple iCRAP and suffering the consequences..
    More fool them for thinking that Apple is a great trendy user friendly company HA.
    Apple the company have no morals whatsoever as far as I am concerned.

    Best customer support I have experienced in Australia, for hardware, has been with Apple, particularly the Chadstone Store.

    My specific examples are as follows:

    In 2008, I purchased overseas a Macbook Pro. In 2009 (within warranty) it required service on the soundboard. Took a week, I didn't pay a cent.

    A month ago, the same machine had a major issue with the logic board. An issue that Apple acknowledged as a fault. My machine got replace the entire logic board, at no cost, outside warranty, with no receipt provided.

    I have purchased several different items (both Apple and non-Apple) that I have had to return days later, opened, and received full refunds with no questions asked. This does not include software though.

    And regarding non Apple products: I purchased a non Apple product in October last year. In December, clearly several months after, I went to the store for a replacement. At first, it was denied from the store itself, and it was recommended to be sent to the manufacturer. I had a friendly chat with the manager, who demonstrated interest on helping, and offered to give me a new item and send on my behalf the product.

    I certainly don't care if you believe my story, consider me a fanboy or think I work for Apple. But one thing is for sure, if you are kind and friendly to the employees of any store, they will try to help out.

      oh yeah I had friendly "geniuses" who tried to help out, and I was friendly too...then they spoke to their manager...and they were still friendly and I was still friendly...then their manager came out and spoke to me, and that guy should be locked in a backroom. he was not friendly, and completely intimidating. #doncaster

    It's obvious people who buy apple products are generally ignorant morons as they have just proven by buying an overpriced apple product, thats esentially a basic pc sold for over 3 times it's value. They are probably dazzeled by the fancy apple store with pictures of iphones on the wall.

    dealing with these idiots must be a nightmare....

    I understand some people have had some good experiences but with friends any my experience has been rather different from Apple. Some of their products clearly have/had design faults such as the button on some of their iphones you can find endless people who have sticky buttons or buttons that don’t work.. Apple will not fix the issues as the product is just out of the 1 year period...

    Also as the article suggest try buying non apple product from Apple, they do not want to know about you once they have taken your money, they try to palm you off to the vendor of which some do not have local percents in Australia and say you need to ship the product overseas for it to be looked at..Apple will not help and could not be bothered... This is wrong and yet another reason I’ve stayed clear of Apple products and ‘Store’ for about a year now and never been happier. Sorry current Apple fan boys, I use to be like you but I’ve seen the light and Apple takes their crap attitude and ‘I am the creator of anything in the world that is great’ attitude and get lost... (I started losing allot of respect for them when the law suits started up and they started getting patients awarded to them for things they clearly did not invent or even come up with the idea then have the audacity to sue other over, the legal system also needs fixing in this area!)

    Just my 2 cents worth any way... If Apple is working for you great, no worries but any one that makes it out that they are the best IT company needs to try some other products out before passing these comments.

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