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Apple Slammed By ACCC Over Warranty Clams & Questionable Statements

By David Richards | Wednesday | 18/12/2013

Months after Hewlett Packard was fined $3M by the Federal Court over dodgy warranty claims, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has jumped on Apple who has been forced to accept a court enforceable undertaking following an investigation into Apple's consumer guarantees policies and practices, and representations made to buyers about their Apple products.

The ACCC claimed Apple has been making false or misleading representations to a number of consumers regarding their consumer guarantee rights, including that Apple was not required to provide a refund, replacement or repair to consumers in circumstances where these remedies were required by the consumer guarantees in the ACL.

The ACCC was concerned that on occasions these representations may have arisen from Apple staff and representatives misapplying Apple's policies, including its 14 day return policy and its 12 month limited manufacturer's warranty. The ACCC was also concerned that Apple staff were directing consumers with faulty non-Apple manufactured products purchased from Apple, to the manufacturer for resolution of the consumer's concerns.

Apple has since acknowledged the ACCC's concerns, and that some of these representations to consumers may have contravened the ACL.  Apple has worked with the ACCC to resolve these concerns, and has now committed to taking a number of compliance measures. 

 "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," ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.

"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."

In the undertaking Apple has publicly acknowledged that, without limiting consumers' rights, Apple will provide its own remedies equivalent to those remedies in the consumer guarantee provisions of the ACL at any time within 24 months of the date of purchase.

To avoid any doubt, Apple has also acknowledged that the Australian Consumer Law may provide for remedies beyond 24 months for a number of its products.

"The ACL consumer guarantees have no set expiry date. The guarantees 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," Mr Sims said.

In addition, the undertaking requires Apple to:

not make representations to consumers which the ACCC was concerned were contrary to the ACL;

continue to offer a consumer redress program in which consumers potentially affected by the alleged conduct can go to Apple to have their claims re-assessed by Apple in accordance with the ACL;

continue to implement an Apple program to improve ACL compliance which includes improved training for Apple sales staff and management staff and all Apple call centre representatives who have contact with Australian consumers;
continue to monitor and review its ACL compliance going forward to ensure the conduct of concern to the ACCC does not occur again;

maintain a webpage aimed at providing information and clarifying the differences between the coverage provided by the ACL and Apple's voluntary limited manufacturer's warranty; and
continue to make available in its retail stores in Australia copies of the ACCC's "Repair, Replace, Refund" brochure.

The ACL came into effect on 1 January 2011 and provides consumers with basic rights in relation to consumer goods sold in Australia. These basic rights operate in addition to any express or voluntary warranties offered by businesses and cannot be excluded by a business' terms and conditions of sale. 

Products affected by Apple's policies and practices included:

Apple iPods, iPhones, iPads, MacBooks, iMacs and peripherals;

non-Apple manufactured products such as headphones and printers; and

products and software available for purchase on Apple's iTunes and App stores.

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