FTC pressures Apple to state after-sales policies

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FTC pressures Apple to state after-sales policies

The Fair Trade Commission said yesterday that companies that have warranty or after-sales service standards that are different from the norm in Korea will have to state those differences on their product packages starting in April. If they don’t, they will be fined up to 100 million won ($87,100).

According to the trade watchdog, the requirement is mandatory for so-called brown goods, light electronic devices including TVs, mobile phones, automobile navigation systems, laptops, tablet computers and cameras.

The items were chosen by the Korea Consumer Agency over two years based on the number of complaints received by the agency.

Industry analysts say the watchdog’s decision is targeted particularly at Apple, the maker of the iPhone, iPod and iPad, as there have been many complaints in Korea, and even a lawsuit, about Apple’s after-sales policies and service.

In addition to warranties, companies that offer different after-sales services from Korean standards will have to declare them.

Last August, Apple told the FTC that it would bring its after-sales policy for the iPhone 4S into line with local standards by giving customers with faulty phones new replacements rather than used, refurbished models.

But the United States-based company hasn’t yet changed its warranty standards for the iPad or iPod, saying it has its own “global” standards.

“We thought it would be necessary to inform consumers that after-sale services for Apple products are unfavorable by Korean standards,” said an official from the FTC.

On another note, the watchdog also said that publishers of school reference books for elementary to high school should indicate when the books were published.

The FTC said there have been incidents in which publishers didn’t state the date of publication in books they sold and sold old books as if they were new.

In the meantime, the watchdog said last month it will enhance its investigation into unfair practices in 2012, including distortion of conglomerate governance structures.

The FTC also said it will launch an online consumer report to help consumers buy products based on more accurate information.

By Lee Eun-joo [angie@joongang.co.kr]

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