Know Your Rights – What To Do If Your Apple Turns Out To Be A Lemon


Image: iFixit.
Image: iFixit.

Apple’s products are generally well built and very dependable. When things do go wrong, Apple normally backs its products with excellent technical support and warranty service. Normally, if your Mac or iPhone develops a problem, Apple’s return policies or warranty service will make it right.

In spite of Apple’s best efforts, some Apple products manifest chronic problems — they’re “lemons.” What follows is a guide, which details some of your options should you get stuck with a lemon.

Because lemons are an unavoidable reality, there are certain things that every Apple customer should know. Namely, that the law is on your side. Those who take the time to understand – and assert – their rights will be glad they did. For example, if you find yourself on a second, third, or fourth repair attempt, you are entitled to demand a new replacement or full refund of your product’s original purchase price. (More on this below).

The problem can be any manufacturing or design defect, provided the problem was not caused by user neglect or intentional misconduct. Therefore, if you – or some other outside force – did not damage your product, then it has a problem and you should seek to get it repaired or replaced.

Replace It If A Problem Develops Within Fourteen Days Of Purchase

Apple has a fourteen-calendar day return policy. You can return any Apple product for any reason whatsoever within the fourteen-day period unless:

  • You had your product personalized (i.e. custom engraving)
  • You had your product custom built
  • You caused the problem

If your product falls into either the first or second category you can still return it, but only if it exhibits a legitimate problem (i.e. it is dead on arrival, defective, or an incorrect item). You cannot return it simply because you decided you did not like it. If you damaged your product, then be more careful next time.

Beware: Apple’s return policy states that Apple will assess a ten percent restocking fee. However, this fee is routinely waived if you request it. Be prepared to argue a little if they do not waive it immediately. Also, Apple’s fourteen-day return policy only applies when you buy your product directly from Apple. If you shop at a vendor other than Apple, you are stuck with whatever their return policy is.


Try To Replace Your Apple Product If A Problem Develops Within Thirty Days Of Purchase

Although Apple’s fourteen-day limit is the official policy, there are circumstances where Apple might informally extend the return period – usually up to a maximum of thirty days. If it has been between fourteen and thirty days since you purchased your product, you should still try to demand brand new replacement in lieu of repair. You will get a brand new product and you will save time because you will not have to wait for the repair.

Your Apple Product Develops Problems After Fourteen Days Since Purchase

Generally, if it has been more than fourteen days since purchase you may no longer simply return your product. You must seek to have it repaired under Apple’s one-year warranty or AppleCare. It does not matter whether you take your product to an Apple Store, an Apple Authorized Service Provider, have on-site service, or have it serviced by mail. All you need to know is that Apple must fix your product’s problem. Do not try to do it yourself because you may void your warranty or AppleCare coverage. In dealing with Apple, remember the following tips:

Contact Apple and demand warranty satisfaction

Contact Apple immediately if you believe your product has a problem. Be prepared to describe the problem’s symptoms. This may be as simple as pointing out hairline fractures in your MacBook’s case or as complex as demonstrating defects with a Mac’s logic board, which can be intermittent and hard to diagnose. Do your best to document the problem and be prepared to reproduce it if necessary. If your problem is intermittent, say so. Ultimately, it is up to you to convince Apple that there’s a problem. However, if you genuinely believe a problem does exist, do not let Apple summarily dismiss your concerns.

It is important that you are polite and coherent during any communications with Apple. Tell Apple about your product’s problem and demand that it be addressed through repair or replacement. Keep a record of all communications with Apple. Keep a log of everyone you speak to (Name, date, time, and subject matter of conversation). Keep all documents and reference codes Apple gives you. If Apple fails to adequately remedy your product’s problem these records will be critical later.

Document your product’s condition before handing it over to Apple

Take photographs of your product before handing it over. Just because you hand your product over to Apple for repair does not mean you will get it back in substantially the same condition as before. Apple technicians sometimes cause more harm than good. For example, I have personally seen Apple return repaired Macs damaged by the repairs  (i.e. deep scratches in an LCD screen). If you are quick to report the problem Apple will usually accept fault and repair the damage without question. If you wait to report the problem (perhaps more than 24 hours) having photos demonstrating a pristine Mac will help your case immensely.


Know your rights

As a consumer within the United States, both state and Federal law govern your rights. Because consumer protection laws vary greatly from state-to-state, we’ll only focus on Federal law. However, it is important to note that the state laws exist in addition to Federal laws and frequently provide consumers with further protections and benefits.

The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act gives you – the consumer – an absolute right to satisfactory warranty repair. If your Mac is still covered by its warranty, then Apple must fix your Mac’s problem. If Apple fails to repair your Mac, then it has breached its warranty and you are entitled to relief. Generally, Apple may be deemed to have failed to repair your Mac if 1) it refuses to fix your Mac; or 2) fails to fix your Mac after a reasonable number of attempts (more than three to four attempts is usually unreasonable).

Under the Act, once Apple breaches its warranty, you – the consumer – may elect either replacement of your Mac or a full refund, without charge, in exchange for your defective Mac. If you are forced to resort to incur legal costs or expenses, you may also recoup those. Therefore, if you find yourself on a third or fourth repair attempt, you may wish to demand a full refund of the original purchase price because any equivalent replacement model might be worth far less than what you originally paid (i.e. if your Mac is now an older model). Why not get back the $1,200 you spent on that MacBook two years ago and buy a newer model? You could even buy an equivalent model on the open market and pocket the leftovers.

Contact an attorney

If you find yourself embroiled in a legitimate warranty dispute that you are unable to resolve on your own, you may want to consider contacting an attorney. As mentioned above, your state laws may afford you additional protections (i.e. treble damages) or advantages not afforded by the Act. Attorneys are expensive and any serious warranty dispute will take weeks, even months, to resolve.

If you believe you may need an attorney – but are unsure about where to start – contact your local bar association and take advantage of their referral services. Depending on your income, you may qualify for pro bono (free) services. Hopefully, you kept good records of your communications with Apple. Good luck.

***Disclaimer: this article does not constitute legal advice nor does it create any attorney-client relationship between the reader and the author of this article or CultofMac or any of its affiliates. If you have a legal question, contact an attorney.***


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