Analysts said yesterday that Apple Inc would face punishments if it fails to make amends in its maintenance terms, after the China Consumers' Association and six local associations criticized the US technology firm Tuesday for adopting unfair maintenance terms for Chinese consumers.
The unfair terms of the iPhone and iPad maker include the use of refurbished parts during repair and a condition that "consumers are deemed to have given up the ownership of a product if they fail to collect repaired products from Apple within a certain period of time."
These terms reduce or exempt Apple's compensation liability and limit consumers' rights, the China Consumers' Association said in a report co-released by consumers' associations of Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Chongqing, Jiangsu and Shandong.
Apple was not available for comment by press time yesterday.
Complaints against Apple products have increased recently, not only in the six provinces and municipalities involved in the report, but in other places too, said Qiu Baochang, president of the legal panel at the China Consumers' Association.
In Tianjin alone, the local complaint center has received 256 complaints against Apple products from the beginning of 2012 to the end of May, Tianjin-based Tonight newspaper reported Tuesday.
"The reason why Apple can neglect consumers' interests is because it has innovative products to win popularity, but protection of consumers' interests is more important at present," Qiu noted.
However, consumers and consumers' associations are in a weak position in a battle against Apple, and intervention of industrial and commercial authorities is needed to find a solution, said analysts.
The Jiangsu Consumers' Association has contacted local industrial and commercial authorities which have promised to take action against Apple and Apple dealers if it failed to improve its terms and conditions, Li Xiaojuan, deputy secretary-general of the association, was quoted yesterday by National Business Daily as saying.
Other provinces and municipalities may follow suit if Jiangsu takes the initiative, analysts said yesterday.
Qiu said the State Administration for Industry and Commerce can provide supervision over service and maintenance terms by asking companies to change unfair terms and punish those which refuse to take action.
A consumer surnamed Bi in Ji'nan, capital of East China's Shandong Province, filed the country's first consumer lawsuit against Apple on Monday, after finding out that the warranty period of his repaired Apple product was shortened, which is a violation of the regulatory requirement of one-year warranty, said Ma Liwu, Bi's lawyer at Shandong-based Kang Qiao Law Firm.
"Bi contacted Apple's customer service several times and the local consumers' association mediated between Bi and Apple, but there was no outcome, so the consumer had to use legal means to protect his rights," Ma noted.
Apple's products are popular in China, but the company has failed to obey China's laws and protect Chinese consumers' legal rights, Ma said. "We hope the lawsuit can help change the company's attitude toward Chinese consumers."