ACCC makes Apple revise consumer guarantees

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Michelle Starr is the tiger force at the core of all things. She also writes about cool stuff and apps as CNET Australia's Crave editor. But mostly the tiger force thing.

Apple has agreed, under a court-enforceable order from the ACCC, to increase its consumer guarantee period from 12 months to two years.

(iPhone Dead End image by magic_quote, CC BY 2.0)

If your 13-month-old iPhone just broke, you now have recourse: the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has ordered Apple to revise its warranty period in compliance with the Australian Consumer Law (ACL), increasing its warranty period from 12 to 24 months.

After an investigation, the ACCC found that Apple Australia employees, in telling customers that the warranty on Apple products was only 12 months and the return period was only 14 days, was contravening the ACL and misleading customers as to their legal rights. The company was also directing customers who had purchased third-party products from Apple back to the manufacturers for replacements, rather than replacing the products in-store.

"The ACCC was concerned that Apple was applying its own warranties and refund policies effectively to the exclusion of the consumer guarantees contained in the Australian Consumer Law," said ACCC Chairman Rod Sims. "This undertaking serves as an important reminder to businesses that, while voluntary or express warranties can provide services in addition to the consumer guarantee rights of the ACL, they cannot replace or remove those ACL guarantee rights."

Apple has acknowledged its actions, and has worked with the ACCC to resolve them, committing to a number of compliance measures.

These include increasing the warranty period to at least 24 months by default, applying to all products; and, in some cases, even longer, since the ACL sets no expiry date for consumer guarantees; instead, they apply "for the amount of time that it is reasonable to expect given the cost and quality of the item or any representations made about the item," Sims said.

Apple is also no longer allowed to make warranty claims to customers that run contrary to the ACL. In addition, it must educate employees on the ACL; maintain a website clearly stating the differences between Apple's voluntary limited manufacturer's policy and the coverage provided under the ACL; and make ACL brochures available to customers in its retail stores.

Customers who had previously had their claims rejected by Apple can also now apply for a re-assessment.

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Pining posted a comment   

That's a very nicely written article!

Does it mean that Apple were breaking the law and cheating their customers of their lawful rights?

"Apple has agreed, under a court-enforceable order from the ACCC"
- Does that mean Apple have been proactive in fixing this misunderstanding as soon as they were advised of it?

I'm just not very good with your technical jargon. Sorry!


Michelle Starr posted a reply   

I don't know if it's called "breaking" the law in these cases, I think "not complying with legal requirements" is a better way to put it. The term "breaking the law" implies intent, which probably can't be proven.

And yes, that basically means that Apple, when advised of its wrongdoing by the ACCC, agreed to start complying with the law. But it kind of has to, otherwise the ACCC can take Apple to court; that's what "court-enforceable" means.

In these cases, the ACCC will hand down a list of requirements that the company has to comply with. If the company doesn't comply immediately, further action can then be taken; usually in the form of fines.

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