Apple CEO Tim Cook issues apology to Chinese customers

Apple CEO Tim Cook issues apology to Chinese customers

Summary: How important is the Chinese market to Apple? Enough to apologize to.

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TOPICS: Apple
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Apple chief executive Tim Cook made a formal, public apology on the company's Chinese website last week for a less-than-adequate repair and warranty policy on its products.

The text of the actual message is in Chinese; a portion of it roughly translates to the following: 

We are aware that a lack of external communication in this process has lead to the speculation that Apple is arrogant, does not care or does not attach importance to consumer feedback. We express our sincere apologies for any concerns or misunderstandings this gives consumers.

The note -- and the "profound reflection" that led to it -- comes in response to two weeks' worth of feedback, Cook writes.

As a result, there are four changes to the company's policy. It plans to improve the repair policy for iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S devices; provide "concise and clear" language about the policy on its website; improve supervision and training of Apple Authorized Service Providers; and make it easier for customers to contact Apple with feedback.

Previously, the company would replace parts -- up to all but the back cover -- of customers' iPhone 4 or 4S devices. The new policy allows for a complete device replacement, in line with the policy for the iPhone 5. In addition, in the past the company's website did not include warranty information for various products; that has been remedied. Furthermore, the company promised to be more rigorous with its representatives and introduced a proper, direct customer feedback channel.

The company has reportedly been the target of criticism by the country's political leadership, who have argued that the American company treats Chinese customers different than it does others. The People's Daily newspaper and CCTV television network, considered mouthpieces of the government, lobbed accusations in a series of critical articles and broadcasts that Apple violated Chinese law on warranties, evaded corporate taxes around the world and harbored "unparalleled arrogance" in its dealings.

An early response from Apple that failed to address the criticism with specificity (Apple "is always making an effort to exceed customers' expectations," it said in part) seemed to fan the flames of discontent with the company.

It is unclear where the controversy began. Some early reports speculate that it is the result of a tit-for-tat scenario between the U.S. and China after American officials recommended that U.S. companies resist deals with Chinese technology firms Huawei and ZTE, calling them untrustworthy. Actual proof of this accusation remains elusive.

In his note, Cook wrote, translated, that Apple has the same "commitment" and "enthusiasm" for Chinese customers as others around the world. "We will make unremitting efforts to achieve this goal," he added, again in rough translation.

The company's revenue for the greater Chinese region -- which comprises China, Taiwan and Hong Kong -- was $6.83 billion last quarter, a 67 percent increase from the same time period a year ago, making it the company's third largest market after the United States and Europe and its fastest growing market worldwide.

Photo based on the original by Ivan Walsh/Flickr.

Topic: Apple

Andrew Nusca

About Andrew Nusca

Andrew Nusca is a former writer-editor for ZDNet and contributor to CNET. During his tenure, he was the editor of SmartPlanet, ZDNet's sister site about innovation.

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73 comments
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  • This is a face saving apology for both parties involved.

    If the Chinese "powers that be" are honorable , than this email will allow both parties a "cool down" period.

    If the Chinese market attacks on Apple persist , than it will be safe to assume that the Chinese government was not acting in good faith all along but rather have other motives. Perhaps Apple didn't pay the Chinese enough "protection money" during the last few months.
    kenosha77a
    • This pattern repeats itself over and over again

      "If the Chinese market attacks on Apple persist , than it will be safe to assume that the Chinese government was not acting in good faith all along but rather have other motives. Perhaps Apple didn't pay the Chinese enough "protection money" during the last few months."

      It is so inconceivable that apple could ever do wrong that any time apple is found to be doing wrong, there MUST be a conspiracy.

      Let's flash back a few years and see how our dear ZDNet readers feel about someone making this statement:
      "If the EC attacks on Microsoft persist , than it will be safe to assume that the EC was not acting in good faith all along but rather have other motives. Perhaps Microsoft didn't pay the EC enough "protection money" during the last few months."

      apple has done plenty wrong in its long and sordid history. What I find interesting is that as apple has become more powerful, the abuses get worse and worse.

      "Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely"

      apple is corrupt. That much is undeniable. The Chinese government could ALSO be corrupt but that doesn't change the fact that apple is corrupt.
      toddbottom3
      • What does that even mean?...

        Apple is "corrupt"? How? What is corrupt about them? Are you sure you know what corrupt means? Are you referring to the past treatment of Chinese labor, the same practices done by every other foreign company? Heck, the same practices done by CHINESE companies on their own? The article is not even clear exactly what the complaints about product service are. How is the treatment different in China, and in what way was it unclear to their consumers. From everything else I have read it looks like the US has made claims against some Chinese companies and China has now made some complaints about American companies. Nothing really singles out Apple more than any other.
        NBrazil
        • HornyToadButt the 3rd

          NBrazil, don't pay attention to hornytoadbutt3; I see him as an overweight acne filled teenager with no other way to feel involved in the world past his mother's basement. The chinese government "could also be corrupt"??? He gets his information from selective quick stories on the internet and gives his teen angst a run for the money by commenting; but he can never win against himself. He has a need to feel important in his own world, see the plastic horns on his fake photo.
          Jesster
          • You sound like an 8 yr old elementary school-yard bully, with a lot less

            credibility than the person you're attacking.

            Instead of attacking the person, why not attack his allegations? If you really do need to attack the person, then it's important to prove the person wrong first, then attack him personally second. Otherwise, you prove yourself to be a lot more ignorant and more personally odious than the person you attack.
            adornoe
        • Of such is tyranny born..

          Re: "Are you referring to the past treatment of Chinese labor, the same practices done by every other foreign company? Heck, the same practices done by CHINESE companies on their own?"

          If people say that enough - use that "everybody does it" as an excuse enough - one day it will read:

          "Are you referring to the past treatment of American labor, the same practices done by every other foreign company? Heck, the same practices done by AMERICAN companies on their own?"
          ibsteve2u
      • Quantify corruption?

        There's nothing corrupt about having different practices in different countries? It isn't fair... But corrupt; you'd really need to define corruption here.
        MarknWill
      • Dictionary definition of corrupt fits apple perfectly

        "guilty of dishonest practices, as bribery; lacking integrity; crooked"

        And yes, apple is not alone here, never suggested otherwise. In fact, I addressed it when I wrote:
        "The Chinese government could ALSO be corrupt but that doesn't change the fact that apple is corrupt."

        Unless someone wants to go on the record and claim that apple has never engaged in dishonest practices? Please do so because I'll be happy to post a very simple link that will prove such a person wrong.
        toddbottom3
        • That's not how assertion works.

          You have to prove they did, not the other way round
          MarknWill
          • I'm happy to do so

            First though, I want someone (you?) to go on the record as taking the stance that apple has never engaged in dishonest practices. If no one will do so then no one disagrees that apple is corrupt and there is no point in arguing a position that everyone already agrees with.
            toddbottom3
          • Let me get this straight:

            You'll agree to provide proof, but only if everyone agrees to your assertion before proof is provided? Is your 'proof' that pathetic?

            OK, I'll bite: I agree that Apple has been involved in deceptive practices.

            Proof, please.
            msalzberg
          • Having trouble reading through your hatred?

            I'll agree to provide proof for my position but only if someone challenges me on my position. Why you felt you had to lie about what I said is your problem.

            My position is that apple is corrupt.

            You agree with me since you wrote, and I quote: "I agree that Apple has been involved in deceptive practices." (BTW that's what a quote looks like, try it some time instead of inventing falsehoods and attributing them to others)

            So why would I bother providing proof to people who agree with me?

            Find me someone who disagrees with me and I'll provide my proof that apple has been involved in deceptive practices. So far, everyone agrees with me. Well, to be more accurate, no one has stepped up to disagree with me.

            I'll wait.
            toddbottom3
          • Still waiting.

            I'm not arguing with you.

            I'm asking for proof to accept your assertion. I'm not taking a stand against you because I do not know. I have never been in a position that would allow me to see whether apple were corrupt or not. So when you tell me they are, it should not be too complicated for you to prove so.

            It's isn't about whether I am right or wrong to question your information. With proof, I will learn something new. Without it I avoid learning a falsehood.
            MarknWill
          • I'll ask one more time

            But I'll change it to make you feel a bit more comfortable since you are clearly uncomfortable taking a seat opposite me at the table.

            Are you willing to go on the record and state that it is possible that apple has NEVER engaged in deceptive practices? Even this would be quite a stunning admission that one believed it is possible that a company the size of apple, in business for as long as apple has been around, could have avoided being deceptive even once. I personally believe it to be impossible but I'm curious if you would agree.

            If I am able to show even 1 instance where apple has been deemed, by a judge, to have engaged in deceptive practices, will that suffice as proof?
            toddbottom3
          • Won't be online so I'll be nice, here are several links

            Apple caught being deceptive:

            http://appleinsider.com/articles/13/03/08/judge-orders-apple-to-hand-over-documents-prove-compliance-in-privacy-lawsuits

            "U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul S. Grewal, responding to plaintiff complaints that Apple has withheld documents had been ordered by the court to produce, called Apple's efforts at proving its compliance "unacceptable." "

            apple said they provided all the information but had lied about it.

            http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2012/may/02/asa-forces-apple-withdraw-claims-ipad-4g

            "Apple has been forced by the Advertising Standards Authority to withdraw claims in the UK that its new iPad has "4G capability" to join high-speed mobile broadband services – because there will be no services compatible with the device here."

            apple lied to consumers.

            http://www.pcworld.com/article/154558/Apple.html

            "An iPhone 3G advertisement that claims the handset is "really fast" has been banned by the Advertising Standard Authority (ASA)."

            apple lied to consumers.

            "In August 2008 the ASA banned an Apple television advertisement lauding the iPhone's ability to view all parts of the Internet."

            apple lied to consumers.

            http://betanews.com/2012/11/09/apples-samsung-apology-includes-false-material/

            "The recent statement published on its website was found to be even more serious as it contained "false material" and made out the case as about Samsung copying the iPad, when it wasn’t."

            apple lied to consumers and lied to a judge.

            That took all of a minute on Bing.

            apple lies. Microsoft lies. Samsung lies. Nokia lies. Google lies.

            They all lie. That anyone could even, for a fraction of a second, believe it possible that apple has never lied is stunning.
            toddbottom3
          • I take the stand that everyone is corrupt

            That applies to both companies and individuals, like yourself.

            For anyone to assert that they or anyone living has never done anything wrong is absurd.

            Big companies are often caught doing something wrong, because people watch them closely, any when something wrong is found, it is typically publicized.

            Individuals can sometimes never be caught doing anything wrong, but they themselves know better.

            Corruption implies an intention to do wrong often, especially when it is adventageous to them. I believe this is the meaning you are holding these companies to. If so, then we need more people with a functioning conscience in those companies who will take a stand against their own company when appropriate.

            Do I think Apple's apology to the Chinese will be followed up with Apple doing the things they promised? Yes. They have a market there they do not want to lose, and by following through on their promises, they are likely to appease the consumers there. If they do not follow through, it would be detrimental to Apple's business there. I do not believe Apple wants that.

            I wonder if you, toddbottom3, have trust in any company's products. You sound to me like someone who has trust issues in other areas as well.

            This will be my only post, have a great day, all of you. Yes, even you.
            michaelbreton
          • HornyTaodButt3 is playing HS drama games

            It's all high school teen angst and he is playing drama games. He's not here for discussion; he's here to help himself feel better about being a mama's basement bum.
            Jesster
        • Corruption, thy name is...

          ... @toddbottom3
          JScottA44
      • any other words are suitable。。

        corrupt absolutely...100%
        patrick lion
      • for this reason。。

        I don't buy apple. period........
        patrick lion