What happens if a company sells you faulty goods? The correct answer is that they should offer a refund or replacement, but apparently that's not always the case — even if the company is a consumer giant like Apple.
Over at Apple forum MacTalk, there's an interesting discussion thread triggered off by a reader who tried to return a faulty iPhone case to Apple's online store, only to be told that they would have to deal with the manufacturer. That in turn triggered a discussion with the NSW Department of Fair Trading (DFT):
They agreed 100% that it was not right for Apple not to take responsibility for the products they sell and to push people to the manufacturer. The DFT said they were not aware of Apple's online policy but had already spoken to them and "they were looking at changing their policy" (or words to that effect). They also told my friend to expect a call from Apple to remedy the situation. Trading law is very clear - if the item is not of merchantable quality then the retailer that sold it must take responsibility and offer to repair, replace or refund the item.
Apple has been caught up in questionable warranty and refund behaviour before, but as several commenters on the MacTalk thread point out, this sort of behaviour is distressingly common with all kinds of online retailers, whose thin margins often mean they have minimal resources to deal with customer service.
No matter how thin the margins, though, legal obligations in terms of consumer law can't be dismissed by a store's own terms and conditions. While individual consumer disputes normally get dealt with at state level, the principle of selling goods of "merchantable" quality is one which applies Australia-wide, and which the ACCC is more than happy to enforce.
Had your own messy experience trying for a refund from an online store, Apple or otherwise? Tell us about it in the comments.