How To Get Apple To Replace A Defective Out-Of-Warranty iPhone In Australia

Lifehacker's Consumer Power Week continues with a handy guide to exercising your consumer rights if you have an out-of-warranty iPhone that's developed a fault. Despite Apple's frequent posturing, there's plenty you can do, as Jason Discount explains.

With the two year anniversary of the release of the iPhone 4 in Australia just past, many folks who bought their iPhone 4 after that period would now be approaching the end of their contracts. The iPhone 4 has been known to experience some common defects later in its life (does anyone have a flaky home button?), so here is a guide for how to get Apple to honour the Trade Practices Act of 1974, and provide you with free warranty service: that is, a replacement for your defective iPhone.

First, let’s clear up some initial points. This is not a scam, or a way to scam Apple. The Australian Government and the ACCC have some fantastic consumer protection policies in place that many people simply aren’t aware of, and many companies don’t rush to inform you about. In 2011, they increased these protections even further with the Competition and Consumer Act 2010, but in the case of the iPhone 4, it’s likely that your situation is covered by the 1974 act, which this guide is based upon.

Also, this protection is to cover defects. You are not meant to use this guide if you have damaged your phone through accident, neglect or abuse.

Finally, I am not a lawyer, and you should not consider this legal advice. However, the ACCC has seemingly intentionally documented your rights using as little legalese as possible, with the hopeful intention that all of us commoners can read and interpret it accordingly.

The best approach for anyone to take, is to read the entire Warranties and Refunds Guide (PDF) available at the ACCC website. Nearly all of the passages I am going to arm you with, come directly from that text. I recommend keeping a link, or printout, to it handy, so that you can present it to whomever you are seeking your remedy through.

So, without further ado, here are the common ways Apple tries to absolve themselves of responsibility, and the methods you can use to hold their feet to the fire.

First, you will need to book yourself an appointment at your nearest Genius Bar, or call Apple Technical Support, describe your issue and ask what their offered remedy is. It is typically at this point, that you will be informed that your iPhone is out of warranty, and you can purchase a replacement. Let them know that their warranty is in addition to your statutory rights, which are not limited to a year, by reading them this excerpt from page 10 (emphasis mine):

How long do consumers’ statutory rights apply?

Statutory rights are not limited to a set time period. Instead, they apply for the amount of time that is reasonable to expect, given the cost and quality of the item.

This means a consumer may be entitled to a remedy under their statutory rights after any manufacturer’s voluntary or extended warranty has expired.

For example, it is reasonable to expect that an expensive television should not develop a serious fault after 13 months of normal use. In this case, the consumer could argue the item was not of merchantable quality and ask for it to be repaired, even if the manufacturer’s voluntary warranty had expired.

After quoting this passage, I immediately seek to define what a “reasonable” amount of time is, by pointing out that virtually every iPhone in the world is sold with a two-year mobile service contract, and as such, expecting the device to be without defect for two years seems very “reasonable”.

In my most recent experience, while the Genius agreed that two years was a reasonable amount of time, he seemed to confuse the protection I was raising with a different consumer protection, where a telecommunications provider must warrant any device that a customer is paying off under contract, for the life of that contract. That protection is beyond the scope of this guide, but if you are still under contact with your provider, that is another potential method for remedy, although I believe that came into effect later than 2010.

If at this point, Apple does try to send you to your carrier or the reseller from which you purchased the phone, assuming you didn’t purchase it directly, raise this passage from page 11 which falls under the heading, “Who must provide a remedy?”:

Manufacturers and importers – The law also gives consumers the right to pursue a manufacturer or importer for a remedy, even if goods were bought from a retailer.

In all but one case, these two points have usually been enough for my case to be escalated to the powers-that-be, and a refurbished replacement iPhone is then provided at no charge.

However, in one recent case, a Genius and his Manager still did not comply. This is when I brought out the heavy guns, found on page 14:

Misleading consumers about their rights

Statutory rights are consumers’ rights which are implied in all consumer contracts by the Act. They cannot be changed, limited or refused by a seller.

It is against the law for a seller to do anything that leads consumers to believe their rights are limited, or do not apply – for example, by claiming that no refunds will be given under any circumstances.

That’s right. If a member of Apple’s staff does anything “that leads consumers to believe their rights are limited”, like the imposition of a 1 year “limited” warranty, they are breaking Australian law!

The final snippet that I will add, is the following opening excerpt from the current, publicly available version of the iPhone warranty for Australia available at the Apple website (again, the emphasis is mine):

HOW CONSUMER LAW RELATES TO THIS WARRANTY

For Australian consumers: The rights described in this warranty are in addition to the statutory rights to which you may be entitled under the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 and other applicable Australian consumer protection laws and regulations. Our goods come with guarantees that cannot be excluded under the Australian Consumer Law. You are entitled to a replacement or refund for a major failure and for compensation for any other reasonably foreseeable loss or damage. You are also entitled to have the goods repaired or replaced if the goods fail to be of acceptable quality and the failure does not amount to a major failure. Repair of the goods may result in loss of data. Goods presented for repair may be replaced by refurbished goods of the same type rather than being repaired. Refurbished parts may be used to repair the goods.

So there you have it. Even Apple’s own documentation enforces that the 1-year limited warranty is on top of, and in addition to, your statutory rights!

Lastly, if you are still unable to obtain a remedy, then it is possible that Apple is in breach of the Trade Practices Act, and you should contact the ACCC and file a complaint.

So, armed with the knowledge of these fantastic, consumer-focused statutory rights, and your defective iPhones, go forth and seek remedies!

How to Get Apple to Replace a Defective Out-of-Warranty iPhone in Australia [The Practice Of Code]

Jason Discount is an American living in Australia where he develops software primarily for primary schools and manages servers. Check out his The Practice Of Code blog..


Comments

    Great post!

    My iphone 4 (out of warranty) stopped vibrating a while back, now that I have read this, I will be booking an appointment at the Genius bar today!

      I think some of us here would be genuinely interested in hearing how it goes. Could you make another quick comment about whether it worked out or not?

        To be honest I am upset that my Samsung Galaxy Nexus can not stop vibrating since the Jelly bean Patch. As in I do not have the setting to stop it from vibrating unless it is completely on silent. I hate having my phone set to vibrate unless it is on silent however I can only seem to do the opposite.

      I would be very interested to hear how it goes. I went to the apple store a month ago (My warranty was 2 months expired) And I argued for quite some time and was still refused.
      My Power button has completely stopped responding and will not push inwards.
      I wish I had read this a month ago!
      Jump on this article and comment if you were successful/how they reacted :)

        What did they actually say, Pickled? Did they say it was wear and tear, or that it was mistreatment or something?

          Haha :) well, the "Genius"said that he had never seen the problem before, so took me to 2 other people who had apparently no idea about it. It appears that now apple has this policy of "Tell them it's unfixable and the only option is a replacement for $170"
          In the end, they rattled off a story about what apple does and does not cover. I wasn't in the mood to tell them how rediculous that was.

          I found it funny that while waiting for the manager, the genius next to me was explaining to a customer that a 3gs screen/lcd is soldered to the case of the iphone and therefore is un-fixable and they needed a new one. I couldn't help but lean in and explain that it's two screws and a suction cup and you're done. He wasn't happy that a 19yo interrupted his BS.

            oh man. It's hard to stand there and listen to bulls%$t isn't it. Did you pay the $170?

              Nope, I said I would be looking to go to other companies. which isn't really true. But hey - I couldn't leave with nice words so that was all that came to mind :)

                Did you buy it directly from apple?
                I got mine through Optus on a plan and got Optus to credit me the cost of the replacement. Then went back to apple and paid on the same credit card. So all in all things worked out

            I keep reading this all over the net, the "genius bar" will straight away tell you its something they never heard about, and is not fixable. Fixed someones iPhone who was told the same garbage. which was suffering the 1.5 year old "unresponsive power button problem" with a $5 button off eBay.

        I had the same issue - called Voda / Three and they would not hear any of it. Shoved me off to Apple that stood by the 1 year warranty. I wish this article came around earlier.

          It's rediculous. I honestly wonder sometimes who they slept with in order to get the job :/ harsh, but they need to get their act together sometimes. I'm just going to buy the replacement off e-bay and do it myself.

        My husband and I bought iPhone 4s a little over a year ago. A month ago he started having problems with his power button. I thought that maybe since he was pushing to hard on the button however, I'm now having problems with my power button. My phones never been out of the very expensive otter box. I think this is a defect. I'm calling Monday.

    Just to clarify: The Trade Practices Act 1974 was actually repealed by the Competition and Consumer Act 2010, but the relevant customer protections that you have referred to in this article are replicated in the 2010 act.

    Excellent, My home button only works occasionally. Because of this i have to use an on screen home button which is ridiculous.

    They wanted to charge me $170 to replace it. Now they will do it for free. Thanks guys

    Hi Jason, how would you see these rights applying to an iPhone 4 purchased in the US?

      If you bought it online it's a bit of a grey jurisdictional problem. However my guess is that the Australian consumer law (trade practices act or australian consumer law 2011) probably wouldn't apply since it is an American product. America will no doubt have some consumer regulations, try google it.

      Then your rights are for what US law is. US law isn't close to as tough as Australian law

    Apple stores across Australia are going to wonder why there are so many people suddenly coming in quoting passages from the ACCC, loll

    Beauty, mate! I'm going to use this post-haste to get my Motorola Defy replaced. It developed a speaker fault earlier this year, which is apparently quite common for this model phone -- only mine took longer to do it than most.

    I was given some beats by a friend, and the case strap had come off from regular/normal use.. I contacted beats customer service and they said that "accessories" are not covered by warranty. I am now equipped to get a replacement case.

    BTW Beats have absolutely terrible customer service. I would never buy a beats product anyway, but since it was given to me I had no choice.

      That throws up an interesting issue doesn't it? If you didn't purchase the item are you the consumer? I wonder if your rights will be any different than if you had purchased the item from a retailer yourself.

        The holder of proof of purchase is the consumer. Without proof of purchase... I guess possession is 9/10ths of the law?

          It is sufficient to prove that the item was purchased from them, whether that be via a credit card statement, receipt, or even some 'common sense' - i.e. this particular store is the only Australian distributor for your phone with an Australian serial number.

          I can easily get the receipt for it, not a problem. The Beats guy never asked anything about that though... but still an interesting thought...

    I had an experience with my HTC Sensation phone that became defective. I took it to telstra for repair. The informed me the water egress indicators were flagged and the phone would not be covered under warranty. this is more to this as they told me the indicators could be flagged by humidity. Anyway I requested they repair the phone. They chose to replace and tried to front me for the full cost of a new phone. I asked them what the fault was and they informed me that they could not tell me as their policy was not to repair but replace. I replied that I was not prepared to pay $200 plus for what "could be a minor repair". They replied its our policy, I replied I don't care that your decision how you chose to run your company. Then I got the " well everyone else pays, so whats my problem". At that point I decided we will work this out my way.
    Anyways the outcome was that I received a new handset for free. Do not let these companies bully you they have been getting away with this crap for much too long.

    Called apple to attempt to get my 4 replaced ( Adelaide, no apple store ) as the home button is screwed. Got put through to 3 different people but got told a replacement may be possible and I will find out within 24hours so I'll post back with the result.

    I tried this exact thing recently at an apple store (broadway sydney) as my iphone 4 had not just a very unreliable home button but also the microphone stopped working.

    I was told no dice by the dude at the apple store and had to fork out $180 for a refurbished device.

      Yes me too... they will not replace the a phone with a faulty home button as they claim it is not a manufacturing fault or defect, rather they claim it is wear and tear... Which you will find is not covered under the ACCC regulations. So unless you can prove it is a fault, this article is rather pointless

        mdb had a broken microphone as well though... That would be harder to argue as 'wear and tear'.

          And heck, with the home button thing, if they still refuse, as the article mentions, log a complaint with the ACCC.

            I'd also point out that it's not a once off occurrence. A lot of people have called in about the home button not owning. I'd say that's a fault with the product rather than the individual

    Hate to be the devils advocate here, but reading through that article it also makes some other interesting points. Such as; Under How long do consumers’ statutory rights apply? "For example, it is reasonable to expect that an expensive television should not develop a serious fault after 13 months of normal use. In this case, the consumer could argue the item was not of merchantable quality and ask for it to be repaired, even if the manufacturer’s voluntary warranty had expired."

    If you purchases a phone on contract for two year realistically you paid nothing for it upfront. If you purchased it outright you paid at most $999. A high end tv is well over that price, a computer I can see arguing this for but a phone? I am all for a product working as long as it should, but I think the definition of reasonable is easily questioned.

      Reasonable is one of those words that is open to interpretation. Considering the standard phone contract is 24 months, one would reasonably expect the handset that came with the contract to work for 24months. In relation to buying a phone outright, I would think reasonable time would more than likely be 24 months aswell. Unless of course you buy a Nokia brick, in which case reasonable time is infinite.

      hi sara... i think that if you say spend $4000 on a LED TV, then your argument for the length of reasonable time without fault should be longer than say a $900 kogan branded set. as an example, see jb's warranty info for tv sets up to 2 years and beyond...
      http://www.jbhifi.com.au/documents/corporate/43_2012-01-06_10-10-25.pdf pages 6-7

      Since most phones are provided on 2 year contracts, 2 years is often thought of as reasonable. iPhone's are high end devices so perhaps even longer.

    The problem with the 'reasonableness' consideration is that the contracts are not sold by Apple and is between the consumer and the Telco... Apple therefore makes no representation of the reasonable time for use... this combined with the yearly release schedule would probably lead to an inference that 1 year is a reasonable time and the fact that they offer a repair service (a $180/$230) swap for the device out of warranty rather than simply forcing you to buy a new one would likely have a court leaning in their favour if it ever came to that.

    There is an issue though with Apple offering support with contracts (signing up for Telco contract in Apple store) and I could see this argument (that is, that 2 years is a reasonable/expected time for use) being successful where this was the case.

    I know this isn't free and doesn't compare to getting a replacement device, but for those of you that have dodgy home buttons and are unsuccessful with Apple, these guys (http://iexperts.com.au/iexperts-pricing/#iphone4) do a really god job of fixing busted buttons for $50 - they're in most cities and are most definitely legit. I always recommend them to friends/fam. Not spamming for them, just trying to be helpful.

    Thanks for the kind words.

    @Daniel: No, I would not think so

    @mdb: A non-working microphone is a very obvious defect, and would be very difficult for Apple to claim otherwise.

    @JM: Yes, this entire article is based on validating that your issue is a "defect", or "fault" as you say. I would think of your phone doesn't show any kind of other visible damage or abuse, you should have a good case for the home button being a defect.

    If for whatever reason this fails for any of you, I strongly recommend you write to the person hierarchically above the person that denied you, and/or to file a complaint with the ACCC. The more people that try, the more Apple will be forced to proactively acknowledge the laws of the land, and train staff accordingly.

    Took my out-of-warranty iPhone 3GS to the Genus Bar in Doncaster because it suffered a fast draining battery issue. After 20 min of troubleshooting behind closed doors, the guy came back and offered me a new iPhone 4S for $88. Yes please! This experience alone has made me a loyal fan of Apple.

      Hi there,
      I am about to take my out of warranty iphone4 back to Doncaster next week to have something done before i hit the 24mth mark. The thing switches itself off intermittantly, drops out & the microphone seems to be faulty too. Are u able to let me know who u delt with in there, & what was said straight up. I dont want to be given the run around or spun around once i arrive. Is there anyone there that would be aware of this deal you got (that Id love too), or do you have a job number or service rcpt number or sales persons name? Any help or assistance would be greatly appreciated. Look forward to hearing from you - (or any one with relevant info). Eagerly awaiting.

    So what happens after the 2 year contract? How long do you think a "reasonable amount of time" extends to?

    oh.. the joy of using our awesome system here... used this EXACT law to have jbhifi replace a defective 46" lcdtv (13months old)... 3-4 months of badgering, emails, phone calls and accc complaint. omg... what a battle... however, by the time they realised THEY had to replace it (they tried the fix route, but no parts in aust) and i was also entitled to a FULL refund... oh, but not that! now i have myself a shiny 46" 7series samsung LEDTV!!!!! FTW....

    secondly, snapped callaway driver... same story! however after i pointed out the same laws again, i remained very calm and patient. got a phone call saying they won't replace, BUT will give me a discount on a new one... HA! told them to keep it, and i was seeking legal representation via consumer victoria... Consumer VIC gave them a call, they still reneged ... so i refused to take his offer. i waited about 3-4 weeks and suddenly without any doin on my part received phone call saying a new replacement driver was waiting for me to pick up at any time!

    remember.. stand your ground! don't get angry, be polite and helpful about what happened etc etc...

    I wonder if this works with cars, then we will have much longer car warranty period. But my gut feeling (and most of my experience) is that no merchant is going to honour that without a fight. Merchants usually have no idea of the law or blatantly diregard/mislead about it as there is seldom any reinforcement regarding consumer rights.

      It does, but there is a limit to the price of cars that are covered. From memory it's around $45000 (but you should check), beyond which you're on your own (Manufacturers warranty)

      The thing about cars is that while it is reasonable to expect them to last a very long time (10+ years, maybe 20), it isn't reasonable to expect them to last that long without them needing some pretty major maintenance work done on them. You can't use this law to get all repairs done on your car for free under warranty for the next 20 years.

      Compare that to an iPhone or TV that don't require ongoing maintenance.

    I may be in the minority here, but working in customer service and dealing with refunds, customers don't do their homework. The number of customers I've had to deal with who say its broken and needs replacing because it is their right under the Consumer Laws is ridiculous. You need to show proof of the fault and be nice about it! I've done a consumer law course as part of my degree (so I'm more informed than most) and whilst most people have legitimate claims, they are quite rude about it. One lady came in last week and yelled and swore at me infromt of a shop full of kids... If you're rude about it, you're going to have a bad time.

      I also work in consumer electronics retail, and I'd like to second this.

      The ACL gives consumers' rights which is great, however it doesn't give retailers the same rights. You actually have a lot more power going directly through the manufacturer/importer, than through a retailer/supplier. Conversely retailers usually don't have the power to demand a manufacturer cover it in these situations, as a result many retailers policies don't give you the same freedom because then THEY'RE out of pocket because something someone else made, broke.

      Moral of the story: stay calm, don't yell and scream, and take it direct to the manufacturer of the faulty product.

    Apple tried to tell me that a faulty set of speakers I bought through their online store is not covered by them and I would have to go direct to the manufacturer. I read them a few paragraphs and they didn't budge. ACCC advised me to write a written letter with details of which paragraphs they are contravening.

    A week later they sent a courier to pick up the speakers and gave me a refund.

    Win!

    Perhaps covering this kind of consumer law is why products are more expensive here... I don't like that they are, but if I had to cover something off like this I would charge more.

    Look, i'm the first to say that Apple disgusted me with their case against Samsung/the rest of the world. It was a blatant attack on innovation - the prior art examples made me sick that Apple had the gaul to attempt to patent them.

    Now that's off my chest, the Apple warranty is really WONDERFUL. Seriously. My iPhone got run over by a car - smashed quite badly. Apple said "we'll give you a brand new one for $179 - just bring it in". That's impressive when you think that it was my own damn fault. New screens, new battery, new just about everything (except the unit is almost certainly refurbished - which is ok by me).

    James 2nd

      Refurbished is not new!!!

        True. The "Genius" told me that any faulty phones handed to apple are sent away, melted down (motherboard and all) into a big pot of nothing, and rebuilt from scratch.

        Funny; when I recieved my "New" iPhone 4 from apple, the previous users wifi hotspot pasword was still set.

    The funny thing is, Apple are actually one of the more forthcoming manufacturers in the realm of support. In terms of normal warranty, I can't think of any other phone you can get swapped over on the spot, without waiting weeks. I have seen many many occasions when Apple have decided to cover issues outside of warranty, without any prompting from threatening quotations. This is extended into the computer realm as well.
    This is still GOLD for things I am sure will break for me in the future though, thanks.

    Must say that my experience with Apple was exemplary. Phone would not hold a charge and was three months out of warranty, took it to the Apple store and they swapped it straight over and gave me another years warranty on the change over phone. No problems at all.
    My friends Macbook stopped working too and despite being almost 3 years old they fixed it without cost acknowledging that it was a well known fault with that model.

    Well, my iPhone4's ear-speaker stopped working. I can only answer calls by putting on
    speakerphone now or put in my headphones. The speakerphone always had a problem too ppl
    can't even hear me properly. Not so much an Apple thing but more Optus. I went down to the store,
    where 2 years ago I got promised a NEW handset straight away from stock if I payed top dollar for
    the insurance (should've recorded that :/) . Well I did, for 2 years. My contract is pretty much up.
    Guess what, Optus will only send the phone off for repairs and I have to wait 20 days. I will get a shitty nokia as a courtesy handset. Not at all what I was promised.

    Maybe we should all carry recorders from now on and recors our purchases with our so
    called phone vendors.

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