Apple Sales New Zealand has been issued a warning by the country's Commerce Commission (ComCom), with the watchdog concerned the iPhone-maker may have misled consumers about their rights.
ComCom alleges Apple is "likely" in breach of the Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA), in particular regarding replacement products.
ComCom said that Apple is likely to have breached the Fair Trading Act in a number of ways, including by telling consumers that products are only covered by a guarantee for two years and referring consumers exclusively to the manufacturer of non-Apple branded products, wrongly relinquishing liability for those products.
According to Commissioner Anna Rawlings, Apple "misled" some customers into believing their products were only covered by consumer law for two years, even though the guarantees in the CGA do not expire after a legally prescribed period of time.
"They apply for a reasonable period. What is reasonable depends on the nature of the goods, any statements made about the goods, and how the consumer, in fact, uses the goods," Rawlings explained.
"Although businesses may form a view about how long a product should generally last, they must assess each reported fault on its own merits. They should not base decisions solely on how long a consumer has owned a product. The reasonable lifespan of a product will depend very much on what the product is."
The CGA provides consumers with a range of guarantees about the goods that they buy for personal use, ComCom explained, including guarantees that goods are of an acceptable quality and that spare parts and repair facilities will be available for a reasonable time, unless the manufacturer tells them otherwise.
As a retailer, Apple is also responsible for compliance with the consumer guarantees applying to all products it sells, even if it is not the manufacturer, ComCom explained.
"It is natural that many retailers may wish to liaise with manufacturers to assess and remedy product defects but they must not point blank refuse to address consumer complaints and refer consumers exclusively to manufacturers for attention," Rawlings added.
Apple has also been warned by the watchdog that telling consumers that they must accept a defined number of replacement goods before an alternative remedy would be provided is not in line with the CGA.
Similarly, Apple has been warned against excluding liability for consequential losses when consumers might be entitled to compensation.
The Silicon Valley giant has also been asked to address conflicting information on its website regarding spare parts and repairs, and to cease misleading consumers that their Apple products are being replaced with new products when they are instead supplied with re-manufactured ones.
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