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!

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