Apple Pressured Into Changing iPhone Returns Policy in South Korea

Apple Pressured Into Changing iPhone Returns Policy in South Korea

Apple has been pressured into changing its iPhone returns policy in South Korea following complaints from regulators. The South Korea Fair Trade Commission insisted the Cupertino company changes the way in which it handles defective iPhones that are returned within one month, and after a 12-month wait Apple has complied.

Apple’s existing policy in stores all over the world is to replace faulty iPhones with refurbished ones — no matter how long you’ve had them. However, that will no longer be the case in South Korea. Devices returned within one month will now be replaced with brand new units. Alternatively, customers can ask for free repairs or a complete refund.

Just under 12 months ago, South Korean lawmakers summoned Apple’s senior director for iPhone service, Farrel Farhoudi, to answer questions on the company’s customer service. Back then, Farhoudi assured customers that Apple’s terms were in compliance with the company’s rules and that it had no plans to change them.

It’s unlikely the returns policy will be changed in other territories, but I really don’t think it needs to be. Sure, it’s not nice to think that your brand new iPhone is replaced with a refurbished one after just one week, but to you and I, the refurbished device is no different. They are given a complete overhaul by Apple before they’re sold on and come with a warranty that matches that of the device they are replacing.

South Korea is the first country to have convinced Apple to change its returns policy for its popular smartphone, however, that still won’t please many South Korean customers. 27,000 of them currently have a class action lawsuit filed against the Cupertino company for alleged privacy violations that stemmed from the ‘locationgate’ fiasco. They are seeking $26 million — or $912 each — in compensation.

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  • FriarNurgle

    I was at the Apple Store a while back and some lady was freaking out her replacement iPhone didn’t come with the box or anything. She was expecting a new phone and literally stormed out of the store once she found out if was a refurb. 
    Regardless of policy or regulations, Apple normally goes out of it’s way to help keep it’s consumer’s happy. There should be a line in the sand for getting a new replacement, like 90 days. After that a refurb should be more than acceptable… unless you are crazy person like the one I saw.

  • CharliK

    It would be nice if Cult of Mac would pretend to be journalists and actually follow up on things rather than just reposting whatever anyone else says. 

    The service phones, says my very trusted source, are NOT refurbs and any staff member saying that to a customer gets hauled back into the office for a little ‘fearless feedback’. They are either newly and built just for service parts or remanufactured. Which means basically that they take the  units that failed factory inspection due to a single part, remove that part and put in a replacement from another phone that failed due to some other issue. Then retest. But the phones have never left the factory. Unlike a refurb which has been in customer hands for even 5 minutes. 

  • CharliK

    The line is 30 days in the US. Possibly the same in other countries. 

    That 30 days (which is double the normal return period) was set because ATT gives 30 days to back out of a contract. As does Verizon. 

    It’s possible that it wasn’t 30 days in South Korea because their carriers don’t have the same grace period. 

  • oakdesk23

    I thought Apple’s policy was that DOA or defective hardware is replaced with new if the problem is reported within 14-days of purchase. 

    “Sure, it’s not nice to think that your brand new iPhone is replaced with a refurbished one after just one week, but to you and I, the refurbished device is no different.”

    Let’s say you buy a new car, and a week after you buy it the exhaust manifold cracks. You’re given three options… a new car identical to the one you purchased a week prior, your car repaired with a new exhaust manifold, or a factory certified pre-owned car of the same model and year as your car. Who in their right mind picks the last option?

    “Apple’s terms were in compliance with the company’s rules”
    I’m thinking “company’s terms” should be “country’s laws” otherwise this is the lamest excuse I’ve ever heard… 

  • Sebastian Velez

    Wish they would do this in USA…. Been through 5 iPhone 4 replacements in a full year… All were within a 3-4 month Span…. No bueno! The refurbished phones suck…

  • bfreesun

    I bought a new Panerai watch and within a week it had condensation inside. I insisted on a brand new watch and not a repair or refurb. After much argument , including the threat of trading standards I got a new watch. I would expect the same in any retail situation.
    I do get the feeling here sometimes that the Apple kool aid has been drunk just a little too deeply.
    Having said that service policy has improved beyond recognition for anyone who remembers being charged outrageous sums for replacing the crappy batteries in 1st and 2nd generation iPods .

  • prof_peabody

    About time.  They had better start doing this in North America and Europe also. It’s the one thing that Apple does that is deliberately underhanded and pretty much indefensible from the consumer’s standpoint.  I’ve been ripped of by Apple twice on this policy.  

    If you buy a product and it’s new (but defective), it should be replaced with a new product that isn’t defective. The only other honourable way to proceed would be to start giving everyone the price difference between new and refurbished back as well.  

  • bfreesun

    In the UK you cannot sell remanufactured items as new so why would anyone accept one as a replacement for a brand new item. If you were buying a week old used phone would you pay the same for a remanufactured one as for one that was brand new a week ago?

  • prof_peabody

    Not true.  I’ve had Apple do this when the defective item was reported within a half hour of removing the item from the box. If you order it online, you automatically get a refurbished one sent to you and you have no choice.  

    They don’t call it “refurbished” though and they don’t tell you except at one point in the phone call they very quickly refer to it as a “____ model” (their internal term for refurbished). If you don’t pay close attention you will miss it. I bet there are tens of thousands of folks out there with refurbished phones that don’t even know it.  

  • Len Williams

    Hold your horses! Don’t mistake Apple’s refurbished equipment for “used” equipment. Apple has stringent standards and replaces any part, internal or external, including the outside case, screen, glass, etc. that has any mark or defect in it that doesn’t measure up to brand new standards. I frequently buy Apple refurbished Macs, and they are indistinguishable from brand new equipment except that they’re quite a bit cheaper. 

    Apple’s quality control is superlative, and I’ve never had any of the many Apple refurb devices I’ve purchased over the last 10 years look or operate in any other way but brand new. Apple isn’t trying to get away with anything–refurbs are what you should buy first if you’re on a budget. 

  • CharliK

    Refurbished is used. It was touched by a customer who opened the box and used the product. That they might have replaced a scratched display or a mildly burned up battery or erased the drive doesn’t change that that serial number was used by someone else. 

    The issue isn’t whether Apple refurbs are shite. It’s whether that’s what you are getting as a service replacement. ANd it is not. 

  • CharliK

    They aren’t doing it in the US (and likely Europe) at the moment anyway. If you come back in during your 30 days (14 for non phones) with product, receipt and full packaging they will swap you for a new retail. Otherwise at the bar you get another new product. Just happens that it was built to be a service part. But it has never been in customer hands before it goes in yours. 

    As for the defective issue. THere’s no way for them to 100% guarantee that because they can’t control Fed Ex etc tossing their stuff around without a care in the world and stuff shaking loose etc. But when it happens, they do everything they can to make good on it. 

  • CharliK

    The term they use for service parts is remanufactured and it is NOT the same as a refurbished unit. 

    A refurbish unit comes back from a customer. It has been used by that customer. Even if for one minute. 

    A remanufactured unit has never been in customer hands. Some of the parts may have been in a unit that failed factory testing and wasn’t shipped out but that’s it. Oh and they don’t put it in the pretty box with the free headphones, power cord or whatever applies. 

  • CharliK

    Read what I wrote, remanufactured phones are new. You are the first customer that has had that item. No one else had had that phone (or whatever). The only thing that has happened to it is the same testing that happens to a sampling of all units before they are put in whatever box they are put in. Be it the pretty white one or the black ‘service’ box. 

    But even then, says my source, remanufactured phones are only perhaps half a percent of what goes out. Generally they are built to be service parts and the only difference between them and a retail unit is the box and in the case of a phone, the lack of a sim card in the GSM phones (cause they put in the one from your old one). 

About the author

Killian BellKillian Bell is a staff writer based in the U.K. He has an interest in all things tech and also covers Android over at CultofAndroid.com. You can follow him on Twitter via @killianbell.

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