/ Technology

Has Apple been charging its customers for unnecessary repairs?

iPhone battery

Apple customers have been charged hundreds of pounds for repairs, which may be ‘unnecessary’, in its discount battery replacement programme. Have you been affected?

Earlier this year I asked if it was right for Apple to be actively tinkering with our old iPhones.

In a nutshell, Apple introduced a ‘feature’ into operating system updates that slowed some phones down. The reasoning was that tempering performance would help to avoid unwanted issues caused by older or degraded batteries.

Apple attempted to rectifying the situation by offering a £25 battery repair (reduced from £79) to all affected customers. Unsurprisingly this has proven popular, but some of the hoops you have to jump through have not.

Aside from the fact that Apple determines whether your phone really needs a new battery, there’s another rather large caveat to this cheaper price.

Added costs

Apple’s repair website states that “If your iPhone has any damage that impairs the replacement of the battery, such as a cracked screen, that issue will need to be resolved prior to the battery replacement. In some cases, there may be a cost associated with the repair.”

This might seem reasonable at first glance, but as reported by the BBC and seen on last week’s Watchdog, consumers are not happy at what Apple is trying to charge for.

One customer was quoted £200 to fix a small dent in the edge of the phone before Apple would make good on its battery promise.

Another had a phone that appeared to be in perfect condition, only to be told there was ‘internal damage’ that needed fixing.

A few bad apples?

And Apple customer service representatives appear to be singing a different tune to Apple’s repair policy, stating that ‘any and all damage’ must be repaired to benefit from the battery replacement service.

One customer, having been quoted £250 before the battery could be replaced, took their phone to a third-party repair centre who replaced the battery with no issues, something Apple had refused to do.

Is Apple unfairly burdening customers with unnecessary repairs, and should it be doing more to appease customers after the recent bad press? Have you attempted to take an iPhone to an Apple repair centre for a discountedreplacement battery, or had repair issues with any other Apple products?

Comments
Member
Member

I don’t expect that customers in the US will be happy if the same terms apply there. Some are quite vocal and help guide Apple to behave more responsibly. I suspect that Apple is replacing phones with refurbished ones rather than changing the battery, hence the additional charges.

Meanwhile I will carry on using my four year old iPhone, which is working fine on the original battery and would not be covered by the battery replacement programme anyway.

Member

Via YouTube, I’ve been watching a number of Louis Rossmann’s video blogs.

He seems to do quite a lot of business as a 3rd party repairer for Apple products. He seems to enjoy tackling challenging repairs that Apple won’t carry out at all – or for which they would take a long time and/or charge high fees.

He also seems to be quite forthcoming about all the restrictive practices that Apple employ, to maximise their revenue from both sales and service activities.

Luckily for me, I can only afford to own a cheap Android phone, which is a down-market model that has a user replaceable battery, a memory card slot and a standard headphone socket.

Member

I don’t know what to make of Apple, but sometimes they can be very generous. When I took a faulty MacBook Pro to an Apple Store it was three and a half years old and had only a one year guarantee. I had not paid for an AppleCare extended warranty. It was repaired free of charge. It had obviously been dropped because of slight damage to the edge of the case and the base.

Here is a list of the charges that Apple waived in May 2015:

Repair Estimate
Item Number Description Price Amount Due
661-5847 Display Clamshell, Glossy £ 338.00 £ 338.00
661-6160 Board, Logic, 2.2 GHz £ 339.00 £ 339.00
S1490LL/A Hardware Repair Labor £ 24.00 £ 24.00
VAT £ 140.20
Total £ 701.00 £ 841.20

The laptop still works fine and although the battery is intended to last 1000 charge cycles, it’s still OK after 1724 cycles.

If Apple let me down I will report it on Which? Convo and make use of my legal rights, which Apple draws attention to on their website. Goodwill has been enough so far.

Member

They’ve done the same for me. And more – they once sent me a brand new iPod in addition to replacing the battery on an older one, because they took a week longer to do the battery than they expected.

Member

Yes, I’ve had similar experiences with Apple too. They can be very good when they are good.

Member

I once took an iPad 2 to the same Apple Store to enquire about the cost of replacement of the screen, which was slightly cracked. I was quoted a high price and was told that what they would do is to provide a refurbished model. That’s why I suggested above that the supplementary cost for replacing the battery on a damaged iPhone may be because it will be swapped for another one.

Years later, the iPad still works fine despite the cracked screen, though it does not get much use now I have a smartphone.

Member
DerekP says:
14 August 2018

£338 would buy quite a decent brand new PC!

Presumably even Apple aren’t greedy enough to expect anyone to actually spend £840 on the repair of a three year old PC.

So that was a generous repair.

Member

Very generous indeed. My laptop was repaired in May 2015 and it’s still in frequent use. I know other people who have not been so lucky with getting free repairs or refurbished machines but I think it helps to buy direct from Apple, which I’ve almost always done.

Member

We would not be having this Conversation if the batteries in iPhones were user-replaceable. Users who qualified under the battery replacement scheme could keep their slightly damaged phone and just slot in the new battery.

Other smartphone manufacturers have built-in rather than user-replaceable batteries in their latest models or will be moving in this direction. One of the reasons for this change is that it helps make phones more water resistant. With good design we could have replaceable batteries without compromising water resistance. Apple led the move to built-in batteries and could the first to realise that not all innovations are good ones.

Member

As we have discussed before it is not difficult to make phones with replaceable batteries. My Samsung has. There might be a compromise on thickness to accommodate the fixings and seal, but I don’t see the race to thinner and thinner of any value. It might also mean they are no longer submersible, but other than being careless and dropping it out of a back pocket down the toilet – a not uncommon occurrence apparently – that shouldn’t matter. Rain-resistant is easier to protect against.

We should be making products that not only last, but are easily repairable. And avoid the ludicrous costs listed above.

Member

As I’ve said before, Samsung now makes phones without user-replaceable batteries. I presume that thin phones appeal to most people but phone thickness does not concern me, within reason.

I would carry a spare battery in case I am going out and have not charged my phone that day. When I do come to replace my phone battery I will have to buy a third party one because Apple don’t sell batteries to the public, except for old laptops that still have user-replaceable batteries. They are not alone, and many companies don’t make spares available to the public.

Member

Wavechange – UK supplier of Samsung batteries http://www.allbatteries.co.uk/mobile-phone-pda-battery/samsung.html

Member

Thanks, but the batteries are not genuine Samsung batteries, Duncan. They might be just as good but it is difficult to be sure. I will bookmark the site because I may need a battery soon.

I don’t know if Samsung will sell genuine batteries (ones where the phone must be dismantled to replace) to the public but Apple certainly don’t.

Member

Genuine Samsung batteries -UK Wavechange https://www.iparts-4u.co.uk/samsung-battery-replacement

Member

OK, I had not checked the availability of genuine Samsung batteries. I understand that genuine Apple batteries are not available to the public and this company does not offer them. I expect that I will go for a third party replacement. There’s some useful videos that show how to do the job.

Member

A UK company selling genuine Apple products in the UK is http://appleipodparts.com obtained from an Australian website who tell me that they buy direct from the Chinese factory that Apple get theirs made . They say the only other option is to buy direct from the Chinese factory who WILL sell them to you.

Member

That’s interesting. The company has provides a UK landline number but not an address and their website is not good, showing some text on text in my browser. It would also be helpful if they explain how they source their parts. Do they conform to Apple’s specification and what is the guarantee?

On balance I think I would be happier to buy parts from the other websites you have mentioned. AllBatteries looks OK and I know people who have used the site.

Member

“Website not good ” Wavechange ? actually they they only have one real tracker -bigcommerce.com and no malware/tracking servers etc which in website terms is nearly “Saintly ” compared to even here. Its probable the quality of the build of the website isn’t good but not even a hint of viruses/malware much better than most. The other mentioned name was “foxxnet ” a US company that is torn apart on the web for its terrible employee conditions in its factories in China, take note this is NOT Foxnet in case somebody thinks I am misspelling it, — an “under the counter ” company in terms of secrecy but it was an eye opener to see the amount of big names getting their parts made in China in this field . I was amazed at the –well I better watch my words here — “unusual practices” of some big name importers from China. Appleipodparts.com is a wholesale company supplying the trade in the UK so its not a “public company ” in the sense of being advertised in the media as a direct “to the public ” seller . If you try to buy direct from a quality Chinese supplier supplying Apple you need to buy in bulk or you will be directed to an agent or “middleman ” –take note this does NOT apply to Chinese companies supplying cheap rubbish on Alibaba where you can buy batteries individually .

Member

I know nothing about the background, Duncan, but how do I know that the parts are not out of specification parts that have been rejected during testing. When I was young I was happy to buy batches of cheap untested transistors and test their gain and breakdown voltage from mail order companies. As I said, there is no address and no guarantee.

Member

Got more info Wavechange , a bit of detective work shows me they started up around 2009 and the reason they dont print an address is that its a two people import company in the UK but using a German server but doing remote ONLY business from their home (no callers) as the neighbours would “kick up “. They do import original parts (Apple ) from the Chinese factory that makes Apple parts including batteries and are mentioned in on many webpages as selling genuine parts . The owner asked if he could make his accountant his registered address and was told that was legally okay as many businesses do the same as the covenants to his house deeds do not allow running a business/factory /etc from his home and by not giving out a home address as the registered address it stops any person from obtaining information and taking action against him for running it at home. All obtained from -ukbusinessesforums.co.uk website -dated -2009 where he was asking legal questions, so he lives in Britain

Member

Thanks Duncan. This is interesting. I see they are offering genuine Apple batteries, as marked “authorised service provider only”.

I guess, unlike in the USA, British customs do not confiscate and destroy 3rd party imports of Apple spares.

Member

OK, you have done the investigation, Duncan, but I would still prefer to deal with companies that operate a more conventional business and guarantee the parts they sell.

I certainly don’t intend to pay an Apple Centre or authorised dealer to do a job that I can do myself. Will I really need a pentalobe screwdriver?

Member
DerekP says:
12 May 2018

Apple’s refusal to sell parts to the public (including to 3rd party repair shops) is a significant restrictive practice according to Louis Rossmann .

Member

I understand Apple don’t release service data either. It’s little different from Miele. At one time it was necessary to have cars serviced by manufacturers and their agents but thanks to the EU, this can be done by any competent garage using genuine parts. I have been very impressed by almost all the Apple products I’ve owned but I’m no enthusiast of Apple’s business methods.

Member

I have bought direct from Miele two spares for appliances and been provided with the instructions and diagrams on fitting them, as well as helpful advice on the phone.

Member
Mike Rogers says:
12 May 2018

That’s not strictly true.
Apple will sell & provide service manuals to authorised service providers, which we were some years ago. True you have to have suitable premises, trained staff, keep an inventory of parts etc. That way you know that your cherished Apple is going to fixed by professionals.

Member

I think we should all have the option of repairing goods we have purchased. However the onus would be on us to ensure it was correctly and safely done.

Member
DerekP says:
12 May 2018

John – would I be right in thinking that Apple won’t release service data to 3rd party repairers or to the public?

Member

I’m certainly aware of that, Mike. Many of our staff at work had Apple computers and on the odd occasion when repairs were necessary I pointed them in the direction of an authorised service provider nearby. The owner sometimes turned up in the local pub and was very helpful. I think I could manage to change the battery in an iPhone, although that’s yet to be proved.

Member

Malcolm – I quote from UK Whitegoods:

“Miele Spare Parts
Spares for Miele products are just astronomical in price!

Typical examples are over £100 for a drain pump or a whopping £450 for a motor, control PCBs and the likes topping over £300. They may be good, but they sure ain’t cheap to replace.

Of course this would be okay if they never broke down, but while they don’t fail anywhere near mass market levels, they do fail. What you have to bear in mind and, what you take the risk on, is that nothing major breaks before the machine is 12 years or so old as, if you are faced with a repair bill of several hundred pounds when the machine is 8 years or so old, the temptation is to scrap it and replace it with something else.

There are several “compatible” spares available for Miele in our online spares store but the range is limited to very popular Miele spares. Many spares are made exclusively for Miele or in some cases by Miele themselves so there is no alternatives available and Miele will be the only source for these spares.”

If you have evidence that in 2018 that Miele would supply me with a motor for a washing machine or service information I would be interested to see it. What has happened in the past is not very relevant.

Member
DerekP says:
12 May 2018

I agree. I think Apple is lying about its true reason for not selling parts or data to anyone.

Member

What has happened in the past is not very relevant.“. Your Macbook repair was in the past – was that not very relevant? https://conversation.which.co.uk/technology/apple-ripping-off-replacement-batteries/#comment-1530769

I simply related my personal experience with Miele. As I have no relationship with them I assume others might be treated in a similar way. But you are quite right, my experience was not that recent.

UK Whitegoods list quite a lot of spares for Miele appliances.

However, in a Convo about Apple batteries I’m not sure why Miele was brought in. Back to topic?

Member

I think it’s fairly relevant because it could happen again. I know of other people who have had good experiences more recently, though I don’t have the details.

Unless you have evidence to the contrary then I will continue to assume that Miele would not sell me a washing machine motor or supply service information or likely to offer me a free repair of goods outside the guarantee period.

There are various companies that will sell third party spares for both Apple and Miele products.

When posting comments about Apple and other companies I like to post both positive and negative comments. There are many who would never say anything negative about Apple. It seems much the same with Miele. In the case of Apple there does seem to be a dichotomy about how customers are treated.

Member
Andrew McKim says:
12 May 2018

On a similar issue I took my wife’s iphone5s to an apple store to replace with an iphone8. Taking advantage of the trade in offer I accepted £40 for the older phone. A “techie” appeared from behind the counter, pressed hard on the phone surface and discovered movement which he claimed indicated that the phone was not perfect thus reducing the trade in offer by half. I declined to accept pointing out that John Lewis sold the same phone for £40 less than Apple. The assistant said good luck getting anything fixed under guarantee if you buy from there. I ignored the warning and purchased an iPhone 8 from JL.
I already own an iphone6 two iPads an iMac and an iPod. Previously I have been delighted with Apple products and service until now but wonder whether Apple is in the declining part of the business cycle where customer service is replaced by financial priorities. I’d certainly think twice before visiting another Apple shop.

Member

Not only is buying Apple products from John Lewis often cheaper, Andrew, but it also gives you a guarantee period of two years, whereas Apple only gives a year’s guarantee. It’s a difficult decision for me because buying from direct from Apple may give you better service if something goes wrong. Certainly that’s what I’ve heard from friends who have a lot of Apple kit. I’ve given an example above and I’m fairly confident that JL would not have repaired my three and a half year old laptop for no charge.

If I was replacing my phone (I’m still happy with my 5S) I would probably give it to someone who might find it useful. Many people who try to sell or trade-in mobiles have been disappointed at what they have been offered. There’s some anecdotes on another Conversation.

Member

Well you are right Andrew in 2015 they lost $62 Billion and $35 billion later and have plenty of problems in the sales area but looking at the latest issue on USA investigative news websites the biggest problem is —-DONALD — guess where a large portion of their sales are ? –China and guess who is hitting China with massive sanctions ? –Donald -Quote- Chinese tariffs could raise the costs of phones /computers etc and most of Apples equipment is made in China this could cause disruptions to supplies and boycotts , $100 BILLION is involved in the Trade War and Walmart will be affected too. Apple has 20 % of its business in China think of a company (Apple ) worth over $200 Billion more like $300 Billion thats a big loss -Walmart -10 % . Quote – think of a 20 % increase on a Chinese made iPhone going from $1000 to $1200 -dated -27th April -2018.

Member

We have the Consumer Rights Act to protect us for up to 6 years against defective products, products that do not prove acceptably durable, products that are unsafe and so on. I’d like to see Which? involved in maker much greater use of the legal rights it gives consumers. Maybe both consumers and retailers would then realise opting out of redress when a product proves not what should be expected was not an option. Retailers might be more selective about the products they sold, and the terms they extracted from their suppliers – maybe in supporting guarantees.

Member
kenneth raine says:
12 May 2018

I don’t have an apple computer. I do however profer some observations. The company is the “Apple in the eye” of which magazine, always giving high ratings while soft pedalling on criticism of cost. This survey gets them out of the frame, by inducing the customer to do their job for them. Why don’t which take the “beam ” out of ther own eye, drop the institutionalised snobbery [ which extends to TV’s] and criticse using criteria of value & fairness

Member
DerekP says:
12 May 2018

Surely, when you have a CEO who’s paid a mere £800,000 each year, it will be hard to understand why some ordinary consumers might be unwilling to shell out the best part of £1000 for every PC, phone and TV they need to buy.

Member
Brent says:
12 May 2018

It sounds like a total rip-off and they are just using it as an excuse to put owners off the cheap battery replacement or make more money doing un-necessary repairs.
Why dont all apple owners switch to android phones that have a user replaceable battery, a memory card slot and a standard headphone socket?

Member

The number of Android phones with user-replaceable batteries is dwindling, Brent: https://www.androidauthority.com/best-android-phones-removable-battery-697520/

Member

Perhaps replaceable batteries are something Which?, and other consumer groups, should be campaigning for as part of a more sustainable product and to intervene in the apparent profiteering of Apple?

Member

I’ve mentioned this numerous times, Malcolm. A huge number of household products are scrapped because batteries are non-user replaceable. Try replacing the battery in an Oral B toothbrush, for example. Over the years I’ve managed to replace a fair number of batteries that were never designed to be replaced but it’s a challenge and all due to irresponsible companies that don’t care about sustainability.

Member

The problem being malcolm is that on every tech. engineering website in relation to production costs Apple iPhones are twice as expensive to repair as Samsung and that according to production engineers there isn’t a great difference in the source of parts many come from the same factories its just that Apple like to make some design changes that are exclusive to them but the opinion is that they were done to make it harder for third parties to repair or obtain iPhone spares . it reminds me of the “big brother ” version of Epson,s ink policy. As you mentioned importing Apple parts by third parties in the USA is “illegal ” , have you checked out the influence Apple have on the US government and Congress ? its massive and includes the media . I could go further but I would need to take legal advice beforehand so I will stop there. Open secrets.org -USA -via -The Centre for Responsive Politics -Washington DC -20005-quote -WE follow the Money .

Member

So we think consumers’ associations should try to get to grips with this perhaps? Is that not their job?

Member

And users who have not yet learned of the consequences, or do not care. It will have to change, simply because it is unsustainable. But that change may need helping along.

Member

I agree. The only solution likely to be effective is legislation, in my view. If there was a requirement to make all rechargeable batteries user-replaceable, the next move could be to standardise on sizes so that different makes of phone use the same batteries. The fact that so many products now use AA batteries (both rechargeable and non-rechargeable) is encouraging. Maybe one day we could pop into a shop and ask for a smartphone battery without needing to specify which brand of phone we have.

Member
DerekP says:
13 May 2018

Brent, I think Android has already become for phones what Windows is for PC’s.

Apple fans don’t seem to be focused on lowest cost solutions.

For their part, Apple have established a brand with a reputation for performance and innovation but not longevity.

Member

Today I plugged in my iMac G4 to retrieve some old photos. It’s nearly 16 years old and is still working fine. I’m writing this post on a seven and a half year old MacBook Pro that still has its original battery. Nevertheless I agree with Derek that Apple does not have a reputation for longevity, but maybe that’s because many users are conditioned into buying ne