FTC, Apple agree to 30-day return for new iPhones

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FTC, Apple agree to 30-day return for new iPhones


Apple, the U.S. maker of the popular iPhone, has agreed with the Fair Trade Commission to extend its initial replacement period for those phones from seven or 14 days (depending on the carrier) to one month. The action came after a rise in user complaints from Korea’s 3 million iPhone users.

Before now, SK Telecom, the nation’s No. 1 mobile carrier, had offered new phones to replace faulty ones within seven days of purchase, while KT, the second-largest carrier in the market, had offered to do so within 14 days of purchase.

The iPhone, which went on sale rather belatedly in Korea, in November 2009, or nearly two-and-a-half years after its initial release in the United States and some other countries, is offered in cell service plans by SK Telecom and KT.

Korea is the first country to convince Apple to change its global policy in this regard, the commission said. The company limits the initial replacement of defective phones for new ones to those returned within seven, 10, 14 or 15 days, depending on the carrier and country. Koreans, therefore, will have a period of at least twice as long as iPhone users elsewhere to replace defective phones. After that initial period, repairs or replacement are covered by Apple’s one-year warranty.

Steve Park, a representative of Apple’s Korea operations, declined to comment on the change.

The FTC added that Apple has also agreed to allow Korean iPhone users to exercise several options in its product warranty. Unlike the terms of Apple’s standard warranty elsewhere, a Korean customer, not Apple, can choose between a refund, a new phone, a refurbished phone or repairs to their problem phone.

Until now, Apple had only given Korean consumers refurbished units when there were problems with the phone, depriving them of the three remaining options stated in the company’s service warranty policy. Refurbished phones are made by reassembling parts from returned iPhones.

“At the start of the talks, Apple had maintained its position that it cannot change its customer service policy because it’s applied to markets around the world,” the commission said.

“But after legal discussions and continuous persuasion, Apple has agreed to respect the Korean regulations and improve its after-sales policy.”

The FTC says it believed the revisions better reflect demand from consumers, and it anticipates that consumer complaints will decrease as a result.

Apple’s rivals, including Samsung Electronics, LG Electronics, Pantech and Motorola, already follow the rules that Apple has now agreed to.

Koreans have had a love-hate relationship with the iPhone. Although the devices sell like hotcakes here, some buyers have vocally criticized Apple’s customer service policy.

More than half of the smartphone-related complaints filed with the Korea Consumer Agency during the first 11 months of 2010 involved iPhones. Among the 72 complaints about the iPhone, 63 were aimed at the iPhone’s after-sales service policies, the agency said.

Last year, a 13-year old user of the iPhone sued Apple’s Korean unit after Apple didn’t provide free repairs. The suit was the first against the U.S. company related to its customer service in Korea, and similar suits followed afterwards. That prompted Korean lawmakers to summon Farrel Farhoudi, the senior director for Apple’s iPhone service based in the company’s Cupertino, California, headquarters, in October. They grilled him about the company’s customer service, to which Farhoudi replied that he believed Apple’s policy was in compliance with the Korean rules and the company didn’t plan to change them.

The number of smartphone users in Korea stood at 16 million in July, according to the latest data.

By Kim Hyung-eun [hkim@joongang.co.kr]

한글 관련 기사 [중앙일보]

애플 ‘백기’

아이폰 1개월 내 고장 땐 새 폰 교체
공정위 요구에 세계 처음 약관 수정

직장인 김모씨는 아이폰을 구입하고 20일이 되지 않아 버튼 불량 등 하자를 발견하고 애플 측에 애프터서비스(AS)를 요구했다. 하지만 애플은 새 제품으로 바꿔주는 대신 반품된 제품의 부품을 모아 재조립한 리퍼폰을 지급했다. 그 이후에도 버튼·진동 불량과 같은 하자가 계속 발생했고 그는 무려 15차례나 리퍼폰으로 교환해야 했다. 이는 애플의 일방적인 AS 약관 탓이었다. 애플사는 아이폰 AS 방법을 환불, 새 제품 교환, 리퍼폰 교환, 무상수리 중에서 소비자가 아니라 자신들이 선택하도록 하고 있었다.

그러나 앞으로 아이폰 구매자들은 제품에 문제가 있을 경우 구입 후 1개월까지는 리퍼폰 대신 신제품으로 교환할 수 있게 됐다.

공정거래위원회는 애플사와 그동안 AS 관련 약관의 문제점에 대해 논의한 결과 제품교환 기준과 AS 배제 기준 등을 소비자에게 유리하게 고치기로 합의했다고 14일 발표했다. 애플이 경쟁당국과 소비자의 요구를 받아들여 자사의 AS 약관을 수정한 것은 세계에서 처음이라고 공정위는 전했다.

애플은 지금까지 자사의 AS 기준이 전 세계에 공통된 것인 만큼 수정할 수 없다는 입장을 고집해 왔다. 그동안 애플사는 아이폰 AS 요구에 대해 약관 규정을 들어 리퍼폰 교환만을 시행해 소비자들의 불만을 사왔다.

 앞으로 애플사는 AS 방법을 소비자가 선택하도록 하고, 구입 후 최대 1개월까지는 신제품으로 교환할 수 있도록 했다. 구입 1개월 이후에도 문제가 반복해 발생하거나 애플 측에 귀책사유가 있으면 신제품으로 교환해 주기로 했다.

 또 애플사는 그동안 ‘애플 제품이 아닌 타사 제품을 함께 사용함으로 인한 손해’에 대해선 품질보증에서 제외했으나 모호했던 이 약관 규정도 명확하게 고쳤다. 아이폰과 함께 사용한 다른 제품에 결함이 있고, 그 결함으로 인해 아이폰에 문제가 발생한 경우에만 품질보증에서 제외하기로 했다.

‘작은 컴퓨터’인 스마트폰을 다른 기기와 연결해 사용하는 건 당연한데 애플 이외의 제품을 사용했다고 품질보증을 안 해주면 다양한 제품을 사용할 수 있는 소비자의 선택권이 제한된다는 민원을 받아들인 것이다. 공정위 김준범 소비자정책국장은 “애플이 약관을 자진 시정해 국내 소비자들은 전 세계에서 가장 유리한 아이폰 보증서비스를 제공받을 수 있게 됐다”며 “구입 후 15일까지만 신제품 교환이 가능한 중국 소비자들보다 더 유리해졌다”고 말했다.

이번 조치로 애플의 AS 기준이 한국의 소비자분쟁 해결기준과 동일해졌다. 삼성전자·LG전자·모토로라·팬택 등 국내 제조사들은 국내 소비자분쟁 해결기준과 똑같은 AS 규정을 두고 있다.

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