Why The ACCC Can't Fix All Your Apple Issues

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) largely got the result it wanted when it took Apple to court over its 'iPad 4G' marketing, with the computer giant agreeing to modify the way it promotes the doesn't-work-directly-with-any-4G-network-in-Australia device. But that doesn't mean that every other complaint people have about Apple products is going to be championed by the consumer regulator.

Picture by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

I was being interviewed by a radio station about the court case yesterday, and one of the questions I got asked was "Does the ACCC have any chance against such a big company?" As I pointed out, while being a large company might mean you can employ good lawyers, it doesn't place you above the law. It's very evident that Apple has often played fast and loose with its interpretation of consumer law in Australia; on this occasion, it clearly went a little too far.

While Apple's agreeing to a court undertaking is a welcome development, it doesn't mean that some of the other issues I highlighted in our roundup of how Apple shows contempt to Australian consumers will be resolved any time soon. In an ideal world, Apple wouldn't falsely claim that you all app sales are final and no refunds will be offered or that it doesn't have to offer assistance on non-Apple goods sold through the Apple store. But the law is clearly on the consumer's side in this case, so if it happens to you, a lawyer shouldn't be needed to resolve the issue.

The court win also doesn't mean that some of the other issues which commenters mentioned will fall into the ACCC's remit. In particular:

"Even with a favourable exchange rate we still pay more than the Americans for an iPad made in China."

"What about iTunes music prices? I have a friend in the USA who recommended several songs which he claims was 99c there but was $1.69 in Aussie??!?"

The ACCC doesn't get involved with general issues relating to pricing: companies are entitled to charge whatever they think consumers will pay, and consumers can choose whether or not to spend their money that way. The ACCC may intercede if it thinks competitors are colluding to keep prices artificially high, if component pricing is used to make good look artificially cheap or if firms falsely claim prices have risen due to taxes, but it doesn't have the powers to tell companies to sell at a particular price.

In practice, there are cheaper options for buying the iPad than through Apple itself, and once you factor in sales taxes the pricing over here is not massively different to the US. Apple adjusted its app pricing in Australia to more closely reflect US prices last year, but music remains a different category — and one, for now, out of the reach of the regulator.

"There is marketing in Australia that suggests that Siri can look up Australian businesses when it actually can’t at all."

Hard to say with this one. The obvious defence is that Siri is in beta and that the lack of location searching is briefly mentioned by Apple (albeit in tiny print with the words "features may vary by area"). In practice, since it isn't part of the name (unlike this week's case), I'm not sure the ACCC would pursue it. But if you have purchased an iPhone 4S and feel you were misled, you can, like anyone, lodge a complaint with the ACCC.


Comments

    Isn't there a case against Apple regarding the misleading advertising with the Siri in Oz TV? The ads at the moment show how lightning fast it is and the last scene showed the phone being able to tell where another person is. We tried this with the 4S and it didn't recognise what we were asking it. Also, my beef against the use of fine prints in these tv ads is because with Apple ads, the backdrop of the ad is usually white and you can barely read the print. Other times it's too small to read in an LCD tv.

      Did you have find my friends on? On both phones?

    I still don't understand why the ACCC allows Apple (and their resellers) to get away with all their warranty BS. If any other company tried some of the stuff they do, they'd be fined into oblivion. Now the limp wristed attack on their 4G claims, makes you wonder if the ACCC turns a blind eye to Apple for less than legal reasons.

    The locate your friend only works if your friend shares their location with you with Find My Friends.

    In the 4G case, isn't it in fact the local Telcos who are selling something called 4G that isn't? Hard to see why Apple cops all the flack on that one???

    Siri in Oz is rubbish, but after tax iPads are cheaper down under.

    Perhaps next year when analogue tv is supposed to be cut, the 700mhz bandwidth will be freed up and we can use that for the interwebs? I personally feel the world is "small" enough, that a globally assigned frequency bandwidth wouldn't go astray for telecommunication. Somewhat frustrating not being able to use your phone anywhere if you travel a lot. It's a political issue though. Perhaps apple will sell a revised ipad "4G" once they release a 4g iphone in australia and the chipset is being used for other devices as well? Unless of course they decide to leave us out for that one too hoping Australia and Europe will someday conform to US frequencies.

      But then again, AT&T doesn't even run at 700 does it?

    But then again, AT&T doesn't even run at that frequency does it?

      Verizon does.

    Hi, has anyone else had any emails from Apple "disappear" from there apple products. I have asked for a refund from Apple for my 4G Ipad. I was told they would ring me back later, but not agreeing to a refund. When I purchased the Ipad from a store in my area I also received an email confirming the purchase. It went to my Ipad, my MacBook and my Iphone. I looked to day to check the purchase details BUT this email has "disappeared" from all of them. I checked the trash on all three...GONE. What happened???? Anyone know???

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