Does Apple consider itself to be above the law?

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Those who were watching my Twitter stream last Friday and Saturday will have followed my saga with Apple and their apparent disregard for customer service or the law when my iPad developed a fault… “Apple?” you say, “but aren’t they renowned for their fantastic customer service?”. Well, they do have a reputation but my experience suggests it’s not deserved, at least not here in the UK…

I waited a few days before writing this post as anyone who criticises Apple is laid open to a barrage of abuse. Even so, I thought it was appropriate to share – and, by “cooling off”, I’m hoping to be objective.

What’s the problem?

A few months ago, I noticed a greenish glow on a small portion of the screen on my iPad, which I purchased in July 2010. It was particularly visible on dark areas, when the brightness is turned up (e.g. when using the iPad in a dark room). So, I booked an appointment at the Genius Bar in the Milton Keynes Apple Store to see what could be done to repair/replace the defective screen. I arrived on time and, whilst it was certainly busy, there were lots of blue t-shirts doing what, to a bystander, appeared to be very little. I’m sure they all had their own jobs but, after waiting 20 minutes past my appointment, I was seen, not by one of the staff who were at the Genius Bar, but by the guy who had been performing some kind of co-ordination role on the shop floor until that point. He took my iPad away, then came back to say that it was over a year old and so out of warranty – repair wasn’t an option and a refurbished replacement would cost £199. I was given the option of speaking to a Manager and I did, but he was equally unhelpful – and apparently unwilling to move an inch, even when I pointed out that the UK’s Sale of Goods Act gives me some rights here…

More support required

I went home and found a statement on the Apple website about Apple Products and EU Statutory Warranty, which directed me to call AppleCare. I opened a support case and, the next morning, I spoke to an Apple representative who listened, logged the call details, but ultimately advised me to contact the point of purchase (the Apple Store in Solihull). Solihull is an hour’s drive away so I called the store, who said I could visit any Apple Retail location and I headed to Milton Keynes, where I had made a Genius Bar appointment in anticipation.

Five minutes before my appointment AppleCare called and said they had spoken to store and could handle a “consumer law” complaint on my behalf, and that I didn’t need to go to store. Ten minutes after that they called again and said they couldn’t after all and 15 minutes later they said EU Consumer Law doesn’t apply in the UK (it doesn’t – but the UK Sale of Goods Act does!) and that I should contact the local Trading Standards department. By then I was at the store again, where I spent the next couple of hours (including almost an hour waiting to be seen as AppleCare’s previous advice meant I’d missed my Genius Bar appointment and I was on standby), eventually being convinced to part with money to replace my iPad (more on that in a moment).

So how is this Apple’s problem?

Those in the US and elsewhere may well be thinking, “so you wanted Apple to repair or replace a product that was out of  warranty – are you for real?” but in Europe, consumer law is on our side.

The UK hasn’t adopted this EU regulation because our own laws provide even better cover – The Sale of Goods Act gives  consumers up to six years to pursue claims. Although UK law does not specify how long a product should last (all products and manufacturers are different), a product is considered faulty if it stops working properly in less time than a reasonable person would expect the product to last. A screen defect within two years does not sound like something that Apple (or any reasonable person) would expect, and so I believe that Apple should have offered me a free repair or replacement with the same or similar product at no cost.

Instead, Apple tried to pass the buck. Initially I was batted back and forth between AppleCare (Apple’s support channel) and Apple Retail (who sold me the iPad). At one point I was advised to contact the actual store where my iPad was purchased (not my local store). Finally, Apple Retail attempted to pass me on to my local Trading Standards department and when I said that the problem was between Apple and myself, not with Milton Keynes Council (the Trading Standards authority in this case), the store manager started talking about me pursuing action in the small claims court, in a “David and Goliath” fashion, playing the part of “the small man” against the big company (and yes, those are quotes!). The arrogance of Apple’s retail management and of the company as a whole, which seems to put itself above the law is, frankly, astounding.

A compromise?

Eventually, one of the Managers in the Apple Store in Milton Keynes offered me a replacement iPad but it cost me £69 – a discount from the £199 originally quoted to the price that I would have paid for AppleCare, if I had taken it at the time of purchase. I didn’t take AppleCare because consumer law covers me against product defects, my home insurance covers me against accidental damage, and the Internet covers me against technical support. In short, I shouldn’t need to buy an extended warranty (AppleCare), and I’m still unhappy at having paid for something that should have been free of charge, if only Apple was prepared to accept the rule of law.

To use the words my friend Alex (@AlexColes):

“Apple set themselves up as the tech company that is way ahead of everyone else in the industry, but their after sales service is worse than mediocre. I used to be a fanboy.”

I think that just about sums it up!

I’m still tempted to contact the Trading Standards department at Milton Keynes Council – and maybe I will sue Apple for costs but, to be honest, my time is worth more than the £69 I paid for the replacement iPad and I’ve already spent several hours speaking to AppleCare, travelling back and forth to my local Apple Store, or hanging around waiting to be seen. Do I really need that hassle? No, I don’t, but there is a principle at stake here – the world’s largest company appears to be ignoring the rule of law – so maybe I should take this further. If I do, I’m sure you’ll read about it here…

22 thoughts on “Does Apple consider itself to be above the law?

  1. LOL, I think the manager needs to re-check his Bible stories to see who came out best in that fight!

    I’ve never bought an Apple device so I’ve no experience of their support but they certainly come across as an arrogant company that would expect you to just by a new product rather than fix the one you already have

  2. I have found this when looking into out of warranty replacement because a 3rd party screen company replaced my broken ipad screen and two weeks later the digitiser underneath broke when pressing the screen moderately. Clearly the original repair was faulty, there’s even a bit of dandruff under the replacement screen!, but now I am trying to get the store to restore the ipad back to usable but eventually I suspect I will have to go to Apple for an out of warranty one. Its not Apples fault the screen broke, I dropped it on concrete, but surely something shouldn’t be THAT difficult and therefore expensive to repair. You are so right that the sale of goods act covers goods that break in the way yours did, but its a civil matter and the cost of pursuing it is far more than the outcome. Perhaps we should lobby in the UK for the COSTS of pursuing an initially rejected claim to be easier to recover, then we would see warranty claim firms turning to cars and tvs and ipads on our behalf. That would be rather effective in changing the quality of goods sold and the response of customer services I think if they knew a lawyer would be gunning for them if they did not respond legally.

  3. Trying to get help outside warranty is only slightly more hard work than getting them to accept a problem inside warranty. 3 months old, my iPad 3 (well, the 3rd gen ‘new’ iPad but not the new ‘new’ iPad) has lousy 3G and wifi reception. Makes it completely useless. Try to get Apple to acknowledge it is next to impossible. Instead, I’m forced to make long journeys into Manchester, each time costing me £10, to swap faulty iPads. The last time, the woman at the Genius bar said it would take 10 minutes to restore my iPad via wifi. Turned out it was going to take 4 hours. She was confused and told me to bring it home. Guess what: wifi is next to dead at home. I’m getting less than 1 Mb/s stood next to the damn router!

    Never again will I buy an Apple product. A shame. Steve Jobs made it the company it was. Idiots have made it into the company it’s become. Trading Standards really need to look into what they’re doing.

  4. My issue is that the Genius Bar gave an incorrect diagnosis on my iphone 4 which was taking blurred photos. I was advised by an Ashley at the Cardiff store that the camera had dislodged inside the phone and was irreparable, trying to get me to pay 119gbp for a recycled new 4, and yet it transpired that all that was required was a new back cover as the lens glass was scratched. Rubbish diagnosis from a not so genius apple employee who has perhaps been instructed to follow a mother agenda. Not impressed as I type away on my iPad – apple you need to get real and improve post sales s ervice

  5. Mark, I wonder whether there is some kind of script used here as your experience is almost word for word what happened to me. Following the failure of the SIM card reader on my iPad, I had a lengthy appointment at the so called Genius Bar, where after an hour and a quarter the genius told me that I had to pay £199 for a new unit as it was out of warranty. I got home and phoned Apple care, after an hour on the phone my complaint was eventually logged. Eventually being the word as the basic thrust of the conversations I had with 3 people centred around the fact the warranty had expired. I pointed out on numerous occasion that this was irrelevant and that my complaint was under the sale of goods act. No-one seemed to understand the distinction. A few hours later the manager of the shop where I bought it from phoned me and, in short he tried the warranty line and then sought to blame me for not mentioning in the shop what he termed a consumer law complaint. He also said, when I pointed out I was a solicitor and wasn’t accepting this, I go down the legal route, whatever that means. It was eventually agreed I should bring the device back in the store.

    Taking the device back in was a total waste of time. He tried the warranty argument again, tried to say the SIM card reader failure was a result of damaged I caused, he also said I should get an independent report to prove I hadn’t damaged it! I said why don’t you look at it and you will see I hadn’t, he said we can’t open up the device as it may not work again! Other gems included the sales of goods act only applied up to 2 years from the date of purchase, finally he suggested I take on Apples lawyers in court. I’d happily do this and I’m sure they would be thrilled at having to spend a day in my county court at god knows what per hour, bearing in mind their costs would be irrecoverable!

    In short I think at best there are severe training issues with there staff. My opinion of the manager I dealt with was he was very arrogant, which was surprising bearing in mind he was so ill informed. I have got back in touch with Apple care and await there response. I will update you when I know more!

  6. Good luck Ed. Unfortunately Apple are so big it’s unlikely any local Trading Standards department will take them to task over their behaviour (which I’m sure is policy). I’ve just given up on my iPad and given it to my kids…

  7. Hi Mark,

    I would agree that Apple’s arrogance and ignorance of UK consumer law is atrocious however the £69 you eventually paid was probably correct under the sale of goods act!

    SOG actually entitles you to a repair or replacement up to 6 years old if a reasonable person would expect a product to last that long but depending on the how old the product is they are entitled to charge a reduced amount for that replacement to allow for the time you have had the use of the product for,

    Take the example of a LCD TV, anyone would expect this to last more than 6 years. if it fails after three it would be reasonable for a company to ask for half the value of a replacement new TV to allow for the 3 years use you have had already.

    So £69 sounds about right in your circumstance, though you are entitled to more than that for the wasted time and run-around they gave you!


  8. Hi Mark, I have grabbed the bull by the horns and issued a claim against Apple, which is as follows;

    I purchased a new iPhone 4 from the Apple store Milton Keynes on the 14th November 2012, I returned the phone on the 5th February 2013. Apple informed me the problem was with their hardware and they were unable to repair, I accepted what I believed to be a new replacement this phone also developed hardware problems and had to be returned, when I complained this was now two new phones I was informed that the phone I received on the 5th February 2013 was refurbished and I could purchase a further refurbished phone at a cost of £119.00 as the guarantee was now a few months out of date. I believe Apple are in breach of the Sale of Goods Act 1979 and the Unfair Trading Regulations (Regulation 6) for failing to provide a like for like replacement and misleading omissions. I require Apple refund £319.00 for the cost of the phone.

    They have not responded as yet, watch this space!

  9. Court hearing was this morning, Apple failed to turn up I was awarded full refund for phone, all costs & 2 years interest.

  10. Nothing if the judge still ruled in our favour, they obviously didn’t think they were going to win hence the no show. (it cost £90.00 through the small claims court) oh and this was Milton Keynes Apple store and court.

  11. First off please let me say i’m sorry to bother however my apple induced hell has rendered me utterly desperate. I’m willing to do pretty much anything, such as hitting up total strangers, in the blind hope that someone will know how to end the torture. In a nutshell I bought the new macbook pro retina from the website last May (2014) fast forward a mere TWO MONTHS & it’s already developed several hardware faults, this culminates in my falling asleep with the thing on me to be woken by the smell of burning flesh. The MBP had left me red raw. This was witnessed & photographed. ?I contact Apple (August 2014) & told to send to Ireland for a “few weeks” of testing. I call Apple on 27th DECEMBER OVER 14 WEEKS LATER to learn that despite my repeatedly asking “what about the charging block” I was routinely dismissed/ ignored only to be informed based solely on testing the unit without charging block (guess they didn’t need/ couldn’t be arsed enough to wonder if there was a link between my newly acquired charger block sized weeping burn where my skin once was & the boiling hot charger block!) that they were unable to “recreate the events” I had endured. Quite how they feel able to confidently pass the machine, denying the health & safety faults when 1) they refused to test the most likely component to have failed 2) the failure was affirmed not only by my testimony but that of the independent witness in a sworn statement concerns me.

    Obviously its not a concern apple share, if my recorded telephone call with its booming affirmation declaring “no hardware faults”! Thankfully its recorded as nobody would believe it. I was told repeatedly that the machine was fine, my raising the matter of the charger not being inspected was spoken over with further louder claims of “no hardware faults” I believe it was after the 4th or 5th repeat I inquired whether the huge side to side crack the screen acquired post burn might not be a fault?? That ended that call! Had another the following day basically saying the same, I notified that as per the Sale of Goods Act ’79 I demanded a refund. This was denied no refund would be given & despite the machine posing real risk to life & limb I “must receive it” when it’s returned, I refused then again cut off. Apple hold the machine and MY money! They were unwilling to give a confirmed return date however I didn’t have to worry about the embarrassment of refusing to accept an item from the courier as it happened they shipped it (in complete defiance of my previous communication informing of my rejecting the machine along with my refund request!) whilst I was in hospital so ended up being returned to sender without my doing a thing. That was end of Jan 2015, they certainly accepted possession of the MBP as the courier provided me with the tracking details showing delivery confirmation with signature AND STILL apple refuse to give me my money back or communicate. They have the machine & payment but supplied NOTHING in exchange, isn’t that theft? Its crazy. Anything anyone can suggest or do to help would be greatly appreciated.

  12. Take them to the small claims court – you can do it online (mcol) it’s reasonably simple and inexpensive. Inform them in writing of your intentions – try writing to Apple, 10 Slingsby Place, St Martins Courtyard, London. WC2E 9AB, (as this was where my claim was dealt with) if you still get no joy, CLAIM.

  13. I have had similar problems been going round in circles. The Manager at the Manchester store is the most patronizing person I have ever had the misfortune to meet – spoke to me like I was 9 years old – I’m actually 50. Faulty product still under warranty but they can’t fix it so I’m left with a product that does not work.

  14. Hmmm not sure you have been entirely reasonable here. First the product was 4 years old and secondly you were unsure as to the cause of the problem (may not have been Apple’s fault). The most sensible option would have been to get the fault diagnosed by an independent Apple approved repairer and if it was Apple’s fault you could have given Apple the option to repair or you would sue them for the repair costs and you would have an expert who is able to confirm the cause of the fault was down to Apple. Easy when you know how!

  15. David, I’m not sure who your comment is directed at – so I can only assume it relates to the original post. The iPad was not 4 years old (although this blog post is getting on for that now…) – it was around 2 years old at the time of the incident. As for whose fault the damage was, with no external damage to the unit, it’s safe to assume its a defect as any mis-use of the product is likely to have resulted in visible damage. The £69 replacement is going strong (albeit in use by my children now as it’s been a long time since any software updates were available). Regardless of that, the point is that Apple appears to ignore the law – and at least one commenter on this post has taken action in a UK court…

  16. My ipad air gave up the ghost after nearly 30 months service. Apple have replaced it for the sum of £82.80p (“Apple Consumer Law Inspection Fee” with proof of purchase needed), which I thought was fair enough.
    The unit is a recon although the guy in the store said all major parts have been replaced for new including screen and case. he quoted me a 90 day guarantee on it, I was expecting 12 months. I wonder how I stand if this one fails in six month.

  17. Phil – the replacement product should last as long as the original one would have been expected to, AFAIK. If it does NOT last this long, you have a right to a refund less any reasonable use deductions. Seems like Apple will use this clause in the law to their favour, but you only have to tolerate ONE repair or replacement, apparently, since 2015 Consumer Rights Act became law. Then you can get a refund. So, how long should a device last, is the important question. 30 months isn’t enough. I’m typing this on a laptop that is something like 8 years old. I only had to repair it due to abuse by a family member who was bedridden. The laptop itself should last ten years, if looked-after. Of course many are shoddily-designed and poorly-built. That’s also provable in a court of law if the heat isn’t extracted properly, for example… Hit manufacturers in the pocket as hard as you can, without apologising. You can constantly remind them that you are doing it because of THEIR poor design decisions, and that you’re effectively providing them with a heads-up on the quality of their products, unpaid consultancy in effect. Claim for your time doing that, too (since they probably won’t appreciate it until you use ‘force’, meaning hit them in the pocket). Always give people a chance at using logic and reason, but hit them as hard as possible to teach them a lesson for the future, if they CHOOSE to do things the hard way.

  18. Yes I have the same disgusting treatment from the Apple Store in Kingston-Upon-Thames. I am now resigned to throwing away a £1200 Macbook, which was clearly a dud but Apple refused to exchange it or give me a refund.

    Still under guarantee the Macbook went wrong (screen went blank and did not turn on). We took it to the store and they got it running again but we lost all of our saved data in the process. It soon went wrong again (the same thing) so it was obviously a dud. As it was still under guarantee I returned it to the shop to demand either a refund or another Macbook as it was obviously defective. The Staff blatantly refused my demand (against my consumer rights) and said I would have to leave it with them and they would repair it again. I knew exactly what would happen, the Macbook would be returned working but as the guarantee was about to expire it would then happen again and they would tell me that I would have to pay for the repair as the guarantee has expired. This is exactly what happened, just a few weeks later the same thing happened again and the Macbook doesn’t open. My case is that the fault was evident whilst my Macbook was still under warranty, and was never repaired by Apple properly (they just got the Macbook working for a short time until the guarantee expired). Also, they refused to refund me, or replace an item that was clearly faulty.

  19. so what do you do when you do a sw upgrade on a working unit which after upgrade no longer works, they say your unit is now faulty and when a huge repair payment, why are they not forced to let you downgrade the sw

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