Apple Australia: quietly extending the standard warranty period of most products from 12 months to 24. Photo: Getty Images
Apple's Australian stores will now fix faulty iPhones, iPads and Macs under warranty if they were purchased in the past two years - but don't expect the company's staff to tell you about it.
For some time Apple's standard 12-month warranty has appeared to conflict with Australian consumer law, which provides statutory warranties for a “reasonable” period of time, undermining Apple's ability to charge hundreds of dollars for AppleCare support plans that include extended warranties, as well as other services like telephone support.
On Friday, Apple's Australian retail store staff and authorised Apple resellers were notified about a change to Apple's internal policy on how it handled standard warranty claims.
Until now, many Apple consumers have reported on forums that store staff have only ever discussed with them a standard 12-month manufacturer warranty when selling, fixing or replacing Apple goods.
Apple has now changed this from 12 months to 24, which appears to bring it in line with Australian Consumer Law.
The change was announced to Apple staff via email and to resellers on a web portal and first revealed publicly by Apple enthusiast website MacTalk.com.au.
But it appears some high-up employees within Apple don't want the change talked about too widely.
One email Fairfax Media has seen, which was circulated within an Australian Apple store, told staff not to talk to customers about the detail of Apple's new policy.
Apple Australia media spokeswoman Fiona Martin had no comment about the changes.
Since January 1, 2011, when a new national Australian Consumer Law came into force, a statutory warranty for a “reasonable” period of time has existed for goods sold in Australia, even if the manufacturer's voluntary warranty (usually set at 12 months) has expired.
What equates to a “reasonable” period of time is undefined in the legislation, but an example given by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission in its warranties and refunds guide suggests that, for a product such as an expensive television, it can be up to 24 months.
Regardless of the law's introduction, many companies, including Apple, have avoided talking about the statutory rights of a customer covered under Australian Consumer Law.
For example, often Apple customers visiting the company's stores in Australia with an item outside the 12-month Apple warranty have had to pay a fee for their goods to be fixed or replaced if they don't know their rights and didn't purchase AppleCare, which extends their manufacturer warranty.
The change to Apple's policy hasn't been announced on Apple's website, but a web page on it that has been published for some time talks about a consumer's statutory warranty rights.
It repeats what Australian consumer law says and doesn't define a reasonable period of time.
In an interview, NSW Fair Trading Commissioner Rod Stowe said he agreed that for most electronic goods a reasonable period of time for it to work was up to 24 months.
“In terms of larger purchases ... you would expect customers to ask for more than 12 months [warranty],” he said.
Mr Stowe added that it was “rather surprising and disingenuous” for Apple store staff to be instructing employees not to tell customers about their move to 24-month warranties.
“To instruct your staff to not let people know [about the change] is something that seems of quite concern and I don't understand why they wouldn't want to be upfront about it," he said.
"Apple seems to be generally one of those businesses that is quite responsible to problems.”
Peter Wells, editor of MacTalk.com.au, said Apple had a tradition of trying to “ignore the rights of local consumer laws and instead using the same Cupertino policy worldwide”.
The new policy would be a welcome change for Apple staff and its resellers, Mr Wells said.
Apple's new policy applies to iPhones, iPads and other iOS devices as of Monday, according to a note on Apple's reseller portal. It will apply to Mac products (i.e. Macbook Airs and Pros) within a fortnight.
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