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

    The UK has similar laws which often mean you get protection for longer than the 12 month manufacturer warranty. IN fact, most electrical goods get 2 or 3 years protection from faults occuring, but the onus is on you to prove faulty manufacture or not fit for purpose.

    I recently had a faulty iron that gave me an electric shock - cost several hundred dollars. I took it back to the store i bought it from (out of warranty) and said this was unacceptable. They would not accept it nor offer apologies and even accused me of dropping it and "over using" it. Basically called me a liar and said the burden of proof was on me to prove it was faulty manufacture.

    So I reported them to trading standards who collected it, sent it to manufacturers for review and it was found to be faulty manufacture.

    Wrote to the store, got a full refund and written apology (no compensation though).

    Manufacturer more apologetic and sent me a brand new model free of charge (shame i'd had to buy a new one as this took a few months to resolve!)

    Still....a win for the common man.

      Had a friend have the same thing happen to them - but was a faulty sandwich press. They told him it was up to him to prove it was faulty. So he went over to a side wall where he saw a power point. Plugged it in, a load bang, and shorted out the stores electrical system. He got the refund.

    Food for thought. It seems Apple has so many refurbished phones, ready for you to take if yours fails right? Well then, how many iPhones have rubbish build quality then? I've heard so many issues with units at about 18 months from friends, and yet those same people (fools?) Invariably buy a new device or pay apple for a refurb device that failed someone else previously

      Refurbished models are sometimes brand new units

        Refurbished models are never bran d new units. Refurbished models are called refurbished for a reason. They are refurbished. The casing might be new, but the important bits - the insides are repaired components from faulty phones.

    Basically what my names says. Bought a $3k rMPB from a retailer, I assumed the problems were lions fault, waited till ML, still broken, took to apple store, 1h and 7 geniuses later was palmed off back to my retailer, they replaced the logic board, still not working, palmed off to apple, was palmed off back to the retailer, now they have my laptop and im annoyed.

    More here: http://forums.whirlpool.net.au/forum-replies.cfm?t=1966579&p=3

    Wonderful article. I did the same thing recently after my iPhone 4 died 20 months into the contract.

    Virtually did what you outlined, and had to stand up for my consumer rights as the companies, although they know about their obligations, will do everything they can to ignore or deflect this obligation that they have.

      and the outcome of you standing up was ... ?

    I got my Iphone 4 on a 2 year contract in June 2011 which puts my phone past the 1 year warranty and the home button is now faulty. Since it is on a 2 year plan and is not fully paid for yet am I still entitled to get a replacement? Thanks if anyone replies :)

    I actually read a similar article to this recently also. They actually provided a link to an Aus Gov website which had a big table which clearly defined the "reasonable time" that each product should last. I wish I could dig it up, but there were some interesting ones, I think even Television were listed for 5 years or something.

    Thanks for the post! Was going to pay for the replacement until reading this. Apple replaced my iphone for free. 6 months out of warranty.

      BTW, didnt have to wait, just spoke to a guy instore who then spoke to his manager.

        Hey Lav.. I'm ready to go in tomorrow and try it out. Just wondering how easily they obliged? Any tips? (Besides those already in the article obviously) Thanks :)

    Excellent article!!! I'm on a two year plan with Optus (experiencIng good connectivity) which expires in November 2012 (8 weeks away) with an Optus supplied iPhone4. It has developed a faulty home button. I visited George St Apple store without a genius appointment. Was told to try the accessability settings instead of using the home button, go away and make a Genius appt. I went away with ability to at least use the phone, then found your article. I made the appointment with the Genius armed with a little Consumer Law knowledge. I was calm, open to options, and talked through the situation. The Genius worked at the store for a year and hadn't heard of the home button issue that seems to be very common.... He told me the phone was out of warranty and I could pay $179 for a replacement iPhone(cha ching $$$), I explained that i was considering two options and neither involved me paying $179. I explained the details you mentioned above, he then spoke to his team leader and promptly replaced my 22 month old iphone4 free of charge. Something else that might be worth considering is that Apple are due to release the new iPhone in the coming weeks and Apple might be less resistive to replacing their faulty handsets with superseded models they are stuck with, that will be sold at a reduced rate or melted for scrap metal,etc..... Thank you for helping us

    8 months old iPhone 4 was replaced with a refurbished one awhile back. 6 months after the replacement, the phone kept crashing, I had to restore it over and over again. Back then, I went to the Apple store, and it was the same $179 for replacement because it was out of warranty, which I wasn't happy to pay, because it doesn't give any assurance at all after what happened to the last replacement. Today, the phone won't even start or restore. When in to Apple Chadstone today, pointed out TPA, but was rejected.

    1 Month out of warranty iPhone 4, having home button issues as well as the phone just turning off and crashing at random times. Went into the Chadstone store and consulted a "genius" regarding the phone. Was told the usual $179 to replace.
    Read this article, phone apple support, and without even mentioning all the lines above, just mentioning the consumer statutory rights I have read up on, they immediately went to organize a replacement phone. So it can be done!

    I just wanted to report that this absolutely works. I have had an iPhone 4 since the day of release in Australia, however I had to exchange it at apple after about 4 months because of dead pixils in the screen. Meaning that my current handset is slightly under 24 months old, and well out of the 12 month apple waranty. my replacement handset has been experiencing button problems for a few months now, and until I read this article, I believed apples story that there was nothing I could do.
    I took it into the George street apple store today after booking a genius appointment and explained my problem with the phone, they offered to do a software reset but I insisted that I have had it done before. They then said that my only option was to have it replaced, at a cost of $170.
    To that I politely suggested that since this was clearly a hardware defect in the device, and a well documented issue perhaps apple could provide a replacement handset free of charge. The rep said that it was not possible, and that the terms of the waranty stated that outside of the 12 months I was not covered.
    To this I replied "I see, but it is my understanding that any manufacturer waranty on a product is in addition to the ACCC consumer protection, and when a manufacturer waranty expires, the ACCC protection was still valid." I went on to explain that under the terms of the act a product is expected to be of merchantable quality and fit for use for a reasonable time. I then explained that since phones all come on 24 month contracts it is reasonable to expect the hardware to last at least that long.
    The rep then tried to tell me that since I received my iPhone 4 on the day of release it was out of the 24 month window anyway, to which I replied that the refurbished handset I had was less than 24 months old and it is reasonable to expect hardware to last 24 months.
    He said he would speak to his manager and be back. When he came back he said "ok we are going to replace your handset for you free of charge." I thanked him for his help, did the swap and was on my way.
    The trick is to be polite and friendly, but stick to your guns, and be assertive at the same time. Also don't take the first or second no as the final answer.
    Thanks to the publisher of this article.

    totally unfair how certain talking can get your out of warranty repaired free of cost. i had weird issues with my iphone not transmitted audio during a call. started during the warranty period and i put it down to coverage and software issues.
    i finally got around to upgrading to IOS5 around warranty expiry and it exacerbated my issues. 2 wks out of warranty no audio was transmitting in a call but skype and audio recording worked perfectly. I googled and found this is a common hardware issue with the Digital/analog converter, booked in a babysitter to go to the apple store on the weekend however no luck. They said if you had walked in 1 day prior to warranty expiry we would have replaced free of charge.
    in the end i paid $179 for refurbished phone. Later reading some newspaper articles i filed a Fair trading complaint (telecomm ombudsman did not help) and they seemed very pessimistic facing Apple. In the end no result.

    I'm amazed for those who got replacements so far out of warranty when i had to pay for a refurbished device on such a genuine warranty issue. Fair trading was powerless against Apple

    Tried to get iPhone fixed in Broadway store after iExperts told me my issue was a logic board problem. (Calls would connect, and microphone would stop working on my end but I could still hear the other person. Only occurs during phone calls, but not FaceTime/Skype or any apps)
    Anyway, get to store, speak to CSRep and you know immediately they're not keen to do it for free. The fact was I had a cracked screen and they just blamed the issue on the physical damage. This despite, the call issue coming months after the screen was cracked.

    Anyway, I didn't want to mess around and paid the fee.
    Guess what they did, replaced my unlocked Vodafone iPhone 4 with a locked refurbished phone.

    Just absolutely frustrating.

      I would like to add my experience:
      My sleep button became jamed for no apparent reason. It was out of warranty by 3 months.
      Apple store said initially I would have to pay and I said no thanks. Did some research found this article and went back the next day.
      Genius said oh yes this is a common problem but you will have to pay as its out of warranty. I said well it should function for a reasonable period- the genius agreed and said go to Telstra and have them replace it. I went to the page that says I have a right to pursue the manufacturer and e genius was like hum and hah. He spoke to manager and within a minute he came back and said we will replace it for you. Easy!

      Thanks so much to lifehacker for the article and to others for posting their comments.

    Had iphone 4s with faulty Sleep/Power button that was approx 23 months old. Went to Chatswood Apple store today after booking Genius appointment armed with this article and Optus 2-year contract agreement just in case. The documents stayed in my bag, didn't even have to mention them. The Genius was very courteous and asked me if I had a backup of the phone which I did. Got me to erase the phone and replaced with a refurbished phone on the spot (looks new to me). Couldn't be happier with the service. Thanks so much Lifehacker, Australian Consumer Law and contributors to this article. In the end had a very happy result for me : )
    Another reason why I would buy and recommend Apple productions in the future.

    Australia seems to have much better consumer protection laws than the US...I purchased my unlocked iphone 4s in the US, but had it exchanged earlier this year in Australia because I currently live in Vanuatu (and Australia is the closest Apple retail location). Do you suppose this would work for me?

    Hi,
    I break my iphone 4s screen accidently and I am under insurance with vodafone australia.
    before i call them i want some one please tip me how to claim without loosing money.
    Please help me out for this.
    Thanks.

    I went into an apple store in Canberra while visiting yesterday, as my iPhone 5 won't hold a charge and I'm ready to throw it, the female assistant informed me that my phone was out of warranty by 5 months but they should be able to do something for me, she tried to fit me in with a technician in 2 hours time but we were heading back to Sydney so she made an appointment for me at the penrith store for next Saturday, I will be taking this advise with me, my friend had the same problem and her phone was older than mine, they replaced it free of charge because the battery in the 5 has been known not to hold a charge, will let you know how I go!

    Nice blog, You had acquired a good usual topic for iphone repair service. Most of the iphone of this generation having good slim body and display, and therefore it screen get withered easily. My new iphone getr slipped from my had and get cracked it screen all were saved just screen is damaged. I searched and searched for any shop online which provide me best screen for my iphone 5s. But I got a site named iphonedoctor.com.au online help me and provide me best fitted screen for my iphone.

    I went to the Apple Store in January to replace an ipad mini, it was pressing buttons by itself so it was useless and they refused to replace it but when the "genius" pressed the home button, he missed and thought it was broken and replaced it. (I might've told him it does that occasionally to prove an influence) He replaced it, I went back a month ago with an iPhone 4S with a broken lock button and the guy said they cannot replace a phone for a disfunction lock button, and he told me to live with the accessability button, now the home buttons broken I am going in next week to see if they are going to tell me that the only way to turn on my phone is pluging it into the wall charger.

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