Apple to Honour Australian Consumer Law on Warranties

An image of rotten and moulding apples.

The ACCC have released that they have accepted an enforceable undertaking from Apple, effectively this will see Apple stop its illegal nonsense with regards to refunds, repairs and exchanges under the Australian Consumer Law or ACL.  They'll educate customers of their rights, train staff on Australian regulations, implement compliance checks and improve reseller processes.

The situation arose due to Apple staff telling porkies to customers that constituted a breach of the law, specifically.

  • Apple doesn't have to give refunds in circumstances where there is a major failure of something
  • Apple is not obliged to provide a refund, replacement or repair in circumstances where there are minor failures with something
  • Apple doesn't have to give repairs, replacements or refunds on things that are purchased in an Apple store but manufactured by someone else (e.g. Sennheiser earphones or Canon printers)
  • No refunds are available for third party things purchased from the iTunes store or App Store

Staff of shops aren't allowed to make any of these claims in Australia.  In Australia the ACL guarantees minimum standards for refunds, repairs and replacements, usually by guaranteeing that the shop has to make good on faulty goods but leaving it to the shop which of a refund, repair or replacement it'll offer.  A shop's refund policy can offer rights in addition to those rights in the ACL, but it can't reduce them, and if it offers rights in addition it doesn't get to replace existing ones.  It seems that Apple staff might have thought Apple's 14 day full refund on things for any reason at all which isn't an ACL right, allowed them to then applying Apple head-office policies that are more restrictive after that 14 day period.  They were wrong.

It's great that the ACCC have stepped in, but in a way it's sad they've targeted Apple.  The ACCC has a bit of a fetish for tech giants, Apple isn't the first to have been targeted for enforcement action to stop behaviour which is not only typical but almost universal across Australian retail.  Shops all around the country have signs which put time limits on refunds or replacements for faulty goods (14 or 30 days), assert that refunds are unavailable on some items (floor stock or items on sale are common targets), or advise that they will only give refunds or replacements if conditions are met that they have no right to demand (the original receipt is most common here). With the persecuted behaviour being that popular it's difficult to be convinced that the ACCC was genuinely looking to fix it everywhere, it seems they just wanted to bounty-hunt a popular household brand.

Hopefully in doing the latter they'll have done the former. If Apple's wrist-slap and pinkie-promise is popularised enough, retail across Australia might start following the otherwise roundly ignored laws. Time will tell.


Image:  per.olesen