How To Get Apple To Replace A Defective Out-Of-Warranty iPhone In Australia

With the two year anniversary of the release of the iPhone 4 in Australia just past, many folks who bought their iPhone 4 after that period would now be approaching the end of their contracts. The iPhone 4 has been known to experience some common defects later in its life (does anyone have a flaky home button?), so here is a guide for how to get Apple to honour the Trade Practices Act of 1974, and provide you with free warranty service: that is, a replacement for your defective iPhone.

First, let’s clear up some initial points. This is not a scam, or a way to scam Apple. The Australian Government and the ACCC have some fantastic consumer protection policies in place that many people simply aren’t aware of, and many companies don’t rush to inform you about. In 2011, they increased these protections even further with the Competition and Consumer Act 2010, but in the case of the iPhone 4, it’s likely that your situation is covered by the 1974 act, which this guide is based upon.

Also, this protection is to cover defects. You are not meant to use this guide if you have damaged your phone through accident, neglect or abuse.

Finally, I am not a lawyer, and you should not consider this legal advice. However, the ACCC has seemingly intentionally documented your rights using as little legalese as possible, with the hopeful intention that all of us commoners can read and interpret it accordingly.

The best approach for anyone to take, is to read the entire Warranties and Refunds Guide (PDF) available at the ACCC website. Nearly all of the passages I am going to arm you with, come directly from that text. I recommend keeping a link, or printout, to it handy, so that you can present it to whomever you are seeking your remedy through.

So, without further ado, here are the common ways Apple tries to absolve themselves of responsibility, and the methods you can use to hold their feet to the fire.

First, you will need to book yourself an appointment at your nearest Genius Bar, or call Apple Technical Support, describe your issue and ask what their offered remedy is. It is typically at this point, that you will be informed that your iPhone is out of warranty, and you can purchase a replacement. Let them know that their warranty is in addition to your statutory rights, which are not limited to a year, by reading them this excerpt from page 10 (emphasis mine):

How long do consumers’ statutory rights apply?

Statutory rights are not limited to a set time period. Instead, they apply for the amount of time that is reasonable to expect, given the cost and quality of the item.

This means a consumer may be entitled to a remedy under their statutory rights after any manufacturer’s voluntary or extended warranty has expired.

For example, it is reasonable to expect that an expensive television should not develop a serious fault after 13 months of normal use. In this case, the consumer could argue the item was not of merchantable quality and ask for it to be repaired, even if the manufacturer’s voluntary warranty had expired.

After quoting this passage, I immediately seek to define what a “reasonable” amount of time is, by pointing out that virtually every iPhone in the world is sold with a two-year mobile service contract, and as such, expecting the device to be without defect for two years seems very “reasonable”.

In my most recent experience, while the Genius agreed that two years was a reasonable amount of time, he seemed to confuse the protection I was raising with a different consumer protection, where a telecommunications provider must warrant any device that a customer is paying off under contract, for the life of that contract. That protection is beyond the scope of this guide, but if you are still under contact with your provider, that is another potential method for remedy, although I believe that came into effect later than 2010.

If at this point, Apple does try to send you to your carrier or the reseller from which you purchased the phone, assuming you didn’t purchase it directly, raise this passage from page 11 which falls under the heading, “Who must provide a remedy?”:

Manufacturers and importers – The law also gives consumers the right to pursue a manufacturer or importer for a remedy, even if goods were bought from a retailer.

In all but one case, these two points have usually been enough for my case to be escalated to the powers-that-be, and a refurbished replacement iPhone is then provided at no charge.

However, in one recent case, a Genius and his Manager still did not comply. This is when I brought out the heavy guns, found on page 14:

Misleading consumers about their rights

Statutory rights are consumers’ rights which are implied in all consumer contracts by the Act. They cannot be changed, limited or refused by a seller.

It is against the law for a seller to do anything that leads consumers to believe their rights are limited, or do not apply – for example, by claiming that no refunds will be given under any circumstances.

That’s right. If a member of Apple’s staff does anything “that leads consumers to believe their rights are limited”, like the imposition of a 1 year “limited” warranty, they are breaking Australian law!

The final snippet that I will add, is the following opening excerpt from the current, publicly available version of the iPhone warranty for Australia available at the Apple website (again, the emphasis is mine):

HOW CONSUMER LAW RELATES TO THIS WARRANTY

For Australian consumers: The rights described in this warranty are in addition to the statutory rights to which you may be entitled under the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 and other applicable Australian consumer protection laws and regulations. Our goods come with guarantees that cannot be excluded under the Australian Consumer Law. You are entitled to a replacement or refund for a major failure and for compensation for any other reasonably foreseeable loss or damage. You are also entitled to have the goods repaired or replaced if the goods fail to be of acceptable quality and the failure does not amount to a major failure. Repair of the goods may result in loss of data. Goods presented for repair may be replaced by refurbished goods of the same type rather than being repaired. Refurbished parts may be used to repair the goods.

So there you have it. Even Apple’s own documentation enforces that the 1-year limited warranty is on top of, and in addition to, your statutory rights!

Lastly, if you are still unable to obtain a remedy, then it is possible that Apple is in breach of the Trade Practices Act, and you should contact the ACCC and file a complaint.

So, armed with the knowledge of these fantastic, consumer-focused statutory rights, and your defective iPhones, go forth and seek remedies!

How to Get Apple to Replace a Defective Out-of-Warranty iPhone in Australia [The Practice Of Code]

Jason Discount is an American living in Australia where he develops software primarily for primary schools and manages servers. Check out his The Practice Of Code blog..

Originally Published On Lifehacker Australia


Comments

    Thanks for this!!! I have a 4 still under contract with a dead home button and a non-functional charging port... Time to make my appointment!

    This is australian LAW for All electronic devices (doesnt include compnants tho, i.e. PC parts), i used it to get a monitor replaced on a dell laptop outside of warranty, buy 6 months.
    A replacement DVD player back in the day 3 months out of warranty, as well as an xbox 360 11 months out of warranty.
    As long as the device is legitimatly faulty and you can prove it, they have to honour the additional 13 months.

    Got mine day 1 sometime in July 2010.
    Had a faulty button about 12 months in... procrastinated and went in around Sep/Oct 2011. I tried everything to get them to replace it but nothing :(
    At the time there was rumours of a really early release so I held out.... I'm currently using the onscreen assist button so I can hit "home", annoying but functional.

      your carrier supplies your second year warranty. within your second year just pop in to your carrier

        While this is another avenue you can take, please see the second quote in the article:

        "Who must provide a remedy?

        Manufacturers and importers – The law also gives consumers the right to pursue a manufacturer or importer for a remedy, even if goods were bought from a retailer."

    Why feel the need to specify Apple and the iPhone in this article?
    The legal passages quoted, I imagine, would relate to all good purchased in Australia whereas this article seems to imply that it might be limited to iPhones...

      Because there's a new iPhone out in a month and the iPhone 4 is getting two years old.

        It has nothing to do with the new iPhone but, just the iPhone 4. The new iPhone could arrive in 2014 and it would have no impact on this article.

      There are a few reasons (not Gizmodo Apple bashing :):

      1. Because Apple sells the iPhone virtually always with a 2-year contract, it very easily passes the "reasonable" test for service up to 2 years.

      2. Many iPhone 4's (not 4S's) are about to become 2 years old.

      3. That's just what I happen to use.

    This is one of the best articles gizmodo Australia has ever done.

    Rang Apple and already sorted out a new phone 355 days outside of warranty thanks gizmodo

    as of dec 2008 (i believe) all phones are covered by a two year warranty with the carrier the phone was purchased from.

      Not so. Optus still only covers phones for twelve months. Maybe Voda does two years but not Optus or telstra.

        Nope, apart from the iPhone, Telstra now offers 2 year warranties on most of their phones.

      This is a different protection and came into effect January 2011. IT IS IN ADDITION to the protections I have documented in my article. Here's some more info:

      http://www.accc.gov.au/content/index.phtml/itemId/966482/fromItemId/142

    It won't help at a retail store quoting law practices and standards, the staff are not trained on such matters. The only thing that will happen is that you will be sent away and given details of the legal department.

    Alot of companies can actually refuse service if someone is speaking about legal action as the employee can be held legally responsible for his actions if any issues arise.

      "A lot of companies refuse service..."

      What? Refuse service for standing up and acting on your rights?

      Anyone think that's just a little bit BS that when your demand your legal rights that a company brings up a "policy" of refusing to deal further with any one who does so?

      I suggest that's counter productive for the company and unless they want to have things dragged out in court it's stupid to have such a policy in place.

      People should also not forget about their ability to file a Small Claims Dispute in the Magistrates Court... With a low filing fee (of usually $25-50) people can have their case heard and seek a legal remedy or ruling - the best thing is that lawyers are barred, so any high profile companies have to defend themselves on the same terms as you.

      It does help. The manager of a Queensland Apple store admitted the shortcomings of the training of his staff when I escalated to him, and said he would address it. That's all we can ask for. The more that try, the greater the chance these companies will proactively acknowledge our rights. As an example, look how Apple UK now acknowledges these rights:

      http://www.apple.com/uk/legal/statutory-warranty/

      I've found that if asking nicely didn't work, gently bringing up fair trading has done the trick in 3 cases. In one instance the manager admitted they were aware of these right the whole time. I generally take a print out as recommended in the article and try for a nice but persistent attitude. It isn't threatening legal action, only asserting consumer rights.

    Thank you so much for this, pressure like this should give me the tools to help more customers than I'm currently able. It's sad, but manufacturers tend to pass the costs for out of warranty jobs back on to us, so most managers don't want to hear it.

    When i first had problems with my iphone 4 roughly a year in they swapped it over straight away (I think the lock button wast quite working). But after dropping my replacement iphone 4 and smashing the screen i took it into apple to see if they could help. They were more than happy to swap it over for a refurbished one for ~$170... no biggie. $170 isnt bad at all and i dont think any other phone manufacturer would swap over a smashed phone for less than that.

    So does this also apply to those of us that bought it outright from the apple store?

    bought mine in april 2011, and all sorts of issues have arisen, such as when you make a call, there is a high pitched tone on both ends of the call, and you can only use it as a phone when you put it in speaker-phone mode, which is incredibly annoying. and the headphone jack can never decide if the 4th pin exists or not and keeps switching between headphones with remote mode, and standard headphones mode (they have different volume levels and other things) no amount of restoring or troubleshooting has fixed this, anyone else ever had either of these issues and had apple fix it out of warranty?

      The protections I mention DO cover you. While you didn't buy it under a 2-year contract, the fact that the device is usually SOLD with a 2-year contract implies that Apple expects it to last for that "reasonable" amount of time. Don't be confused by the separate protection many here have raised about the mobile provider also having to provide service. That's over and above. See some of my earlier comment replies.

    I am going to try and get that faulty battery replaced again with this, last time they said that they done warrant the battery more than 1 year even though they upsold me a spare battery for when the first died, which lasted longer than 1 year

    Brilliant article. More of this Aussie-relevant, useful stuff!! Great work Jason

    It's quite sad to see how popular the iPhone is despite it's poor build quality. Apple must be especially proud of selling a sucker a new phone when their first one only lasted 13 months.

    I got my iphone 4 from optus in september 2010..
    currently, the issues are:
    lock button doesn't work properly
    home button needs to be pressed many times
    vibrator doesn't work, it may work for a tiny bit of time, but after a little bit, it will stop again.

    would these issues be enough to get my phone replaced?

      Granted you have not abused or damaged the phone, I would say you are entitled to a "remedy". The only "remedy" Apple has a procedure for is replacing your iPhone with a factory refurbished unit.

    This won't work with an iPod Touch, will it? I have a 4+ year old touch with a broken home button and headphone jack,

      I don't think it's as clear. The 2-year contract regularly sold with iPhones implies Apple believes the phone will last 2 years. This is not the same for an iPod Touch, which is about a quarter of the price, and over 4 years old. In your case, I would likely opt for the paid refurbished replacement, as it is a considerable discount, and you might even be lucky enough to get a newer model. But I certainly would not think this would be considered your statutory right.

      if it was purchased prior to 2011 you are covered by the older provisions: http://www.accc.gov.au/consumers/consumer-rights-guarantees/products-services-bought-before-2011#products-bought-prior-to-1-january-2011
      I'm not familiar with these, but they are generally open to the consumer's interpretation not the company's when you read them. So if you can find a reason to interpret the guidelines to say they should cover your 4y.o. ipod, then you could give it a shot. It does sound like they could blame those issues on misuse- which would dash your chances.

    Wow I didn't know how bad the iPhone 4 is. That's rather poor

    Good article. More people should know about statutory warranty.

    To everyone asking wether they are covered/aren't covered: Read the first quotation. Your product should last 'as long as a reasonable person would expect'. i.e. an ~$800 phone should last WAY more than two years.

    This is also another reason why Applecare (and any other limited warranties offered by most companies i.e. Harvey Norman) is a complete waste of money. They're covering you for something you already have guaranteed by law.

    Probably the best article I've read on Gizmodo. I'd love to see this article fleshed out to include further examples and relevant parts of the Act in relation to TVs, laptops, consoles, tablets,etc. (I realise a lot of it would be the same, but I'd be interested to see if there are specific relevant parts in the Act for other business like there are for telcos).

    Statutory warranties are fine - but warranty service does not have to be FREE. Apple is not telling you to buy a new iPhone when you come into the store without a warranty agreement, just that you CAN have it replaced to fix it. Outside of the included warranty, this repair costs costs money. The ACL infers warranty service has to be 'reasonable' - and Apple is well within it's rights to charge a fee. Refer to s58 ACL. If you are on a two year contract, then the retailer has to supply the warranty as the manufacturer has determined that the product comes with a 1 year guarantee free of charge. Otherwise, THEY are involved in misleading or deceptive conduct - s18 ACL. Many/most carriers have recognised this. The ones that exclude the iPhone is because the manufacturer has determined otherwise what 'reasonable' is in this context - this is likely because the carrier wants to sell the phone at the cheapest price, as iPhone sales are competitive, rather than absorbing repair costs in the retail cost.

    Apple also offer this replacement service for damaged phones as well. 99 out of 100 times you will see some sort of damage on a phone that is two years old. Damage voids any and all warranties you may be entitled to. Insurance covers damage. If you like damaging your goods and not paying for repairs then get insurance - its what its for.

    Finally, a warning. DO NOT do as the author suggests and visit the genius bar waving the ACL at them. They are not lawyers. What will happen is you will either be a complete douche to the underpaid, teenage techie at the bar or otherwise make a fool of yourself. This is a very empowering guide, but trust me, in a court of law Apple would win.

    And no, I don't work for Apple. Nor am I a lawyer, do not consider this legal advice. But be warned nonetheless.

      The sections you are quoting are from the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 which went into effect 1st of January 2011, and will likely not affect any of the iPhone 4 owners this article specifically targets. The document in effect for all purchases before that date, is the Trade Practices Act of 1974, which is the reference from which my article quotes. Please read the document at the ACCC website, referenced in the article, for clarity on the applicable law.

      And by all means, everyone should DO EXACTLY THAT and go and see a Genius, as they are Apple's appointed representative for this exact situation, as are the folks at Apple Technical Support (phone). If a Genius comes across something for which they are not trained, they are perfectly trained to escalate, which is what 90% of these situations will require. The goal of this article is to get Apple to more publicly acknowledge these rights, publicly adjust their coverage, AND ACCORDINGLY TRAIN the Geniuses so that this escalation is not necessary, but until then, this is the EXACT hierarchy in which Apple wants you to express these issues.

      I am aware of any law or act that states that damage to any part of your device voids any coverage for a manufacturing or design defect in the rest of the device. Granted, this article is not intended to motivate someone with a thrice-dropped iPhone with a cracked screen to go scream at a Genius about their home button. I try to very clearly state that this is about "defects".

      Lastly, I disagree with your court assessment, but to be fair, you are seemingly basing your opinion on the wrong Act. As mentioned in the article, the statutory right that your purchase be warranted from defects lasts for a "reasonable" time, and I can not imagine how Apple could defend that it is not "reasonable" to expect an $800 device sold with a 2-year contract to last for 2 years. Regardless, Apple isn't going to go to court over giving you a $149 refurbished iPhone in exchange for your old phone, which will be refurbished and put back on the pile for the next customer. And at least against the Trade Practices Act (I'm not as familiar with its 2011 replacement), I still think they'd lose anyway.

        You'll find the provisions in the ACL mirror the TPA re s18 ACL -> s52 TPA. The substance of s58 ACL is mostly found in state provisions i.e. Sale of Goods Act 1896 (Qld) Part 2, also consider Div 2A of the TPA. I'm also not familiar with other states legislation however I would argue that in substance the law is no different - reasonableness is arguably always implied unless strict liability is imposed (and I doubt the ACL was so revolutionary to turn things backwards!)

        Btw, your excerpts from the ACCC and consumer law websites also quote the ACL - might need to make the difference clearer for those early adopters that have the pre-1 Jan '11 law apply to them.

        Though I agree I would love my iPhone to last a 2 year contract, it is not Apple's decision to sell them as such, it's the carriers. Many have made their warranties as such. The only reason I think the Genius have caved for you (and I guess others) in the past was that you were sad/mad etc - at the end of the day they're in the business of service, not repairs (not really anyway) evidenced by them often replacing devices, which means if you're not happy, they're not happy.

        But bottom line, are you suggesting that Apple is subverting consumer protection law with their policy? Why wouldn't the ACCC bring an action against Apple over this issue? Strange since they're more than happy to take action with other issues i.e. iPad 4G etc. I agree that its pretty reasonable for a product to last - but consider every single other manufacturer in competition with Apple: are you and Gizmodo saying that Apple does not follow consumer law and you have to 'strong arm' them into compliance? Or are you saying that Apple products aren't built to a merchantable quality? Either way, IMO this piece is pretty inflammatory/defamatory and, though again not legal advice, I would definitely steer clear of publishing a 'How to' on subverting their policy.

        Just my opinion anyway.

          > Btw, your excerpts from the ACCC and consumer law websites also quote the ACL – might need to make the difference clearer for those early adopters that have the pre-1 Jan ’11 law apply to them.

          While the ACL might mirror the quotes I make from the TPA documentation, if you follow the links in my article, you will see I am exclusively quoting the document based on the TPA.

          > Though I agree I would love my iPhone to last a 2 year contract, it is not Apple’s decision to sell them as such, it’s the carriers. Many have made their warranties as such. The only reason I think the Genius have caved for you (and I guess others) in the past was that you were sad/mad etc – at the end of the day they’re in the business of service, not repairs (not really anyway) evidenced by them often replacing devices, which means if you’re not happy, they’re not happy.

          Apple directly sells iPhones with 2-year contracts to the carriers (acting as a carrier reseller), so I would consider that to be a clear endorsement that Apple believes the device will last 2 years. Now, of course, Apple could always elect to let a court decide "reasonable". But I'm quite confident that even without a contract, I would find it hard for Apple to argue that an $800-$1000 device is not expected to last 2 years.

          > But bottom line, are you suggesting that Apple is subverting consumer protection law with their policy? Why wouldn’t the ACCC bring an action against Apple over this issue? Strange since they’re more than happy to take action with other issues i.e. iPad 4G etc. I agree that its pretty reasonable for a product to last – but consider every single other manufacturer in competition with Apple: are you and Gizmodo saying that Apple does not follow consumer law and you have to ‘strong arm’ them into compliance?

          I'm implying that most product manufactures in Australia would prefer these protections didn't exist and will only comply with them as much as they have to, are reminded to, or through fear of action from the ACCC. I also believe that most Australians simply aren't aware of these protections, and I don't think it's fair that only someone like you or me, who takes the time to read about these protections, should be entitled to them, so I feel it my duty to raise awareness. This is very similar to issues in the UK, EU and South Korea. Consumers spoke up, and Apple has now proactively adjusted their policies to comply with the law in a fashion that nearly ALL consumers there are aware of.

          And I don't speak for Gizmodo.

          > Or are you saying that Apple products aren’t built to a merchantable quality? Either way, IMO this piece is pretty inflammatory/defamatory and, though again not legal advice, I would definitely steer clear of publishing a ‘How to’ on subverting their policy.

          Not at all. I think they're of exceptional quality, but some defects get through, and I expect Apple to honour everyones' statutory rights when that happens. This is not about subverting policy. This is about preventing them from subverting our statutory rights.

          > Just my opinion anyway.

          Thank you (sincerely) for bringing it. But we just disagree :)

      A consumer complaint is not taking apple to court, it is only asserting consumer rights. If you do make a fair trading complaint 'when parties are unable to reach a settlement, a complaint may be lodged and Fair Trading then acts as an informal negotiator.' [1] While it can eventually reach a court if the parties can't come to agreement it is unlikely to escalate to that level over a reasonable application of ACCC or Fair Trading Guidelines, particularly over an issue such as a home button.
      [1]http://www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au/ftw/About_us/Our_services/Resolving_issues/General_complaint_handling.page?

    Guys, 100% of the time a "non-responsive home button" is fixed by spraying 'contact cleaner'. No this won't harm your phone, it is a spray worth about $10 you can get from Jaycar that is used to get rid of the scratchiness of the volume control in amplifiers as the age. It gets rid of the grease and puts a protective film over the contacts. I have personally fixed dozens of iPhones this way over several years, no complaints, problems never come back. Google it!

    I spent a month trying to get the Apple store at Chatswood to repair my 18-month-old iMac. After many, many emails and phone calls with the store, with Apple corporate, the ACCC and Fair Trading, I still only have a pretty aluminium doorstop to show for it.

    Apple are being extremely slack with complying with the law in Australia, and the ACCC and NSW Fair Trading are rather powerless to stop it.

    I just tried to get my iPhone4 home button fixed at the new apple store in carindale. They told me that they couldn't do anything because a contact where the dock connector plugs in was slightly pink. They said this means it has water damage. I told them its never been in contact with any water, hence why everything still works fine except for the home button (that needs slightly more finger pressure than normal). They said it don't matter. If its pink instead of silver than I will need to pay a $179 replacement fee. I'm annoyed to say the least. Surely there is going to be slight surface corrosion on any bare metal when you live in Queensland. It's a humid state! I don't know what to do now.

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