Ask LH: Can Apple Refuse To Deal With A Customer Complaint Without An Appointment?

Dear Lifehacker, Recently, my Apple headphones have stopped working after only give months. I took the headphones, and the original receipt to the Rundle Mall Apple Store to get them swapped, and I was told that there was no-one who could assist me, despite there being several staff free.

I went back the following day, and again, they said that there wasn’t anyone to see me and that I’d have to make an appointment.

When I asked whether it’s possible to have my issue seen to without making an appointment (I’m unsure when my lunch break is from day-to-day). The staff flat-out stated that it was NOT possible to have my issue addressed without an appointment.

Can Apple do this? What are the laws around putting up “hurdles” preventing consumers from having faulty products replaced? I’m pretty sure that people wouldn’t accept being told to book an appointment going to any other retailer. Thanks, Sour Apples


Dear SA,

Apple customer service is strangely schizophrenic. It can be exceptionally friendly and helpful, with staff going out of their way to solve problems. On the other hand, Apple has a track record of ignoring Australian consumer law entirely and making claims that contradict that law — and insisting that an appointment at a time of its choosing is the only way to fix defective goods is one of them.

For a complex problem with software, an appointment with an in-store “genius” might indeed be a requirement. However, headphones aren’t that complex — if you plug them in and they don’t work and there’s no clear evidence of wilful damage, they should be replaced, no questions asked. Australian consumer law makes this point quite clearly — you have the right to a repair in a “reasonable time”, and that isn’t up to the store to determine.

So what should you do? In these circumstances, I’d go still halfway — make an appointment, and then show up at the closest time possible that day. If staff refuse to see you, insist (politely) on staying and having the problem resolved. Don’t be rude, but don’t be swayed.

If that request is still refused, ask to see the store manager, and explain that you will be referring the issue to South Australia’s Consumer and Business Services department. That usually does the trick. If you can’t score a resolution, follow up with CBS. Apple (and other companies) need to work within the framework of Australian law, not in spite of how it operates. Good luck!


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