In a report that will air tonight in the United Kingdom, the BBC will spotlight a seemingly illegal Apple repair practice that has denied customers battery repairs based on unrelated and sometimes trivial damage elsewhere in their devices. The BBC’s report comes only days after the U.S. Federal Trade Commission warned consumer electronics vendors not to discourage customers from seeking warranty repairs, a violation of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act.
As spotted by 9to5Mac, the BBC show Watchdog notes that Apple has refused to replace batteries in some iPhones based on damage to other device components. The BBC cites a customer named Josh Landsburgh, who was told that his battery would not be replaced until he addressed a small dent on the edge of the phone at a cost of over £200 (US $272). In another case, Apple told David Bowler that his physically perfect device had microphone and speaker issues that would cost over £250 (US $340) to remedy before the battery could be repaired.
Apple promised discounted replacement batteries to iPhone users to address degraded performance on certain devices, but as these customers discovered, the “discount” is being undone by requiring separate, incredibly expensive, and unwanted repairs. The company’s website includes the following warning to customers, which both Apple customer service representatives and a spokesperson referenced when asked for comment:
If your iPhone has any damage that impairs the replacement of the battery, such as a cracked screen, that issue will need to be resolved prior to the battery replacement.
However, Watchdog says that neither the BBC nor an outside law firm could find any evidence of the policy in the iPhone’s warranty documents. Generally speaking, a company must disclose warranty repair limitations to the customer at the time of each product’s purchase; moreover, those limitations cannot violate a given jurisdiction’s laws.
Posting a stern “no repairs unless…” warning on a website or within stores could be enough to dissuade customers from desired repairs — and it might be illegal, as well. As Motherboard reported this week, the FTC sent letters to six companies threatening legal action over repair-discouraging stickers on their products. The companies were also warned about the illegal practice of denying a customer warranty coverage over use of unauthorized repair parts or services. While the report notes that Apple wasn’t included in this FTC letter campaign, the company has continued to openly discourage customers from seeking repairs elsewhere and refused to repair products previously opened by customers.
Reader comments on the 9to5Mac article and elsewhere demonstrate that Apple’s repair-denying practice isn’t limited to iPhones. Apple representatives have used specious excuses to make mountains out of molehills, claiming that a tiny scratch on an Apple Watch’s front glass precludes replacement of a failed screen, or that a small ding in a MacBook’s casing somehow impacted the logic board.