ComCom investigates Apple over warranty rights

Move comes as Australian regulator takes legal action.
Cracks in Apple's policy?

The Commerce Commission is investigating Apple over its practice of replacing faulty new goods with refurbished ones, in some cases.

Yesterday, the ComCom’s equivalent across the Tasman, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, said it filed Federal Court action over “alleged misleading consumer guarantee representations.”

The ACCC says it commenced an investigation following reports relating to ‘error 53’ – an error which disabled some consumers’ iPads or iPhones after downloading an update to Apple’s iOS operating system.

Many consumers who experienced error 53 had previously had their Apple device repaired by a third party; usually replacing a cracked screen, the regulator says.

The ACCC says its investigation revealed that Apple appears to have routinely refused to look at or service consumers’ defective devices if a consumer had previously had the device repaired by a third party repairer, even where that repair was unrelated to the fault.

This was despite a similar law to NZ’s Consumer Guarantees Act being in play that entitles consumers to a free remedy if a product doesn’t comply with consumer guarantees.

Spokesman Christian Bonnevie says the ComCom in NZ is undertaking a “similar but different” investigation. So far, there is no indication if any court action will be taken.

“We aren’t currently investigating the specific ‘error 53’ issue the ACCC has highlighted. However, we are investigating complaints that Apple may have made misleading representations to consumers about their rights during the rectification of fault issues,” Mr Bonnnevie says.

“It includes whether it’s sufficient for Apple to provide refurbished or remanufactured goods as a replacement in some circumstances, such as for new products that are faulty.”

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The ComCom is also keeping a watching brief on the ACCC case against Apple across the Tasman.

Under a cross-appointment system that has been in place since 2010, two NZ Commerce Commission members (chairman Dr Mark Berry and his deputy Sue Begg) are associate members of the ACCC, while the ACCC commissioner Sarah Court is also an associate member of our ComCom.

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