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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

This comment was removed at the request of the user

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

£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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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?

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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

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?

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.

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.

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.

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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.

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

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.

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?

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

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?

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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 new ones.

… And because Apple don’t provide software updates for older machines.

I have a old MacBook that now dual boots OSX and Linux…

I guess the 24 inch aluminium iMac in the study is around 10 years old. I use it for graphics work, DTP and large spreadsheets. It’s running an older version of OSX because some of the software I use, such as Adobe CS4, will not run under the current operating system. The software may be ten or fifteen years old but still does all I need. I have an older 20 inch iMac that is used to display photos at society events. Neither are used online so security is not a problem.

wavechange – intel based PCs of that age will happily run Windows 10, so can still be “safely” used online.

Thanks Derek. I did not know that, but it’s a bit like offering a vegan a beef sandwich. 🙂 I might not be the average Apple zealot but what I have in common with many of them is a dislike of Microsoft. If I was a computer enthusiast I would be using Linux by now. Oh, and all my old software is for Apple OSX, not Windows.

Last week I did six large signs on the old desktop machine using InDesign, put them on a flash drive and sent the files to the printer from another computer, for printing on vinyl. A minor inconvenience and safer than putting a computer with an obsolete OS online.

wavechange – I still use XP on old machines for similar duties. (I also have a VHS tape player somewhere…)

But, thanks to Linux, if I need to, I can also use those old machines on-line.
I get that experienced OSX or Windows users may not want to learn how to use a new OS, but the opportunity is there for those of us who want it.

I do use my old Mac online for Facetime, but I’d prefer to use a cross platform package.

At one time I did explore what computers could be persuaded to do but with laptops that can be used online it’s not important to me to have the desktop machine online too.

Back on topic, I wonder if Apple is insisting on charging damage for repairs to phones to quality for a cheap battery replacement in other countries.

Planned obsolescence seems to be a major factor with smart phones.

I have an old Samsung that is still nice to use but won’t now browse the web, on account of a lack of system updates (i.e. similar to the smart TV issue).

That does not affect the large number of users who buy their phones as part of a two year contract. Add in marketing and peer pressure and we buy a lot of new phones. When buying a phone it would be good to know how long it will be supported with OS updates to help buyers make an informed choice.

I suspect it’s a misnomer to talk about the hand-held mini-computer as a ‘phone’. That is, after all, only a tiny fraction of what it is and can do. I only use iPhones and we have one each, but their primary function is not making or receiving ‘phone calls. We have no mobile signal at all where we live, which I’ve always thought odd, since the mountains are surely prime candidates for mobile coverage, but we use them for numerous other things, mainly to do with day-to-day computing.

Because of the highly competitive market, we got an iPhone 6 two years ago on a two year deal, then, when that ran out, we were able to get an iPhone 7 but for less, so the total cost of keeping the two iphones, with call packages (should we ever need them) is less than having the one iphone we initially got.

Ian, I think that sort of functionality is now implicit in what smart phones can do.

More signicantly, the units are portable and work most places that folk can take them.

[Sent from my £20 Android phone.]

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As Ian says, a smartphone is a computer. As with a Swiss army penknife it might not be the best tool for the job but unlike the knife it does many jobs very well indeed. I don’t consider myself as a heavy user but in the past four years mine has proved its worth to me. I recently downgraded my SIM-only plan that included unlimited calls to 500 minutes per month and now have to be careful towards the end of the month. I tend to use the mobile for outgoing calls because it is so easy to update the phone book compared with using my landline phones.

My top priority is tethering, so that I can use my laptop away from home without messing about with finding free WiFi. I may post here most days, but often far from home.

I reckon that I can replace the battery myself when that is needed. When I can no longer update it I will have to find out whether my obsolete phone still meets my requirements and about security.

I agree with Duncan about marketing pressure being driven by the US, certainly in the case of phones.

What happens to all these phones at the end of the two year contract if you “upgrade”? I’m on a SIM only so I’ll keep my “old” Samsung 4 until I have to change.

Some people move to a SIM-only contract when their original contract expires. The danger is that if you don’t switch to a new contract (monthly rolling or annual) you can carry on paying the same monthly charge even after you have paid for the phone. This practice may now have been banned and a former colleague succeeded in obtaining a refund from O2.

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It’s not in the OED as an adverb, Duncan; but perhaps they;ll include it if enough start using it. That’s how it works, anyway.

Humanitarianouslification might be in the Bush version.

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Humanitarianism is fine, Duncan; “humanitarianly” is not, which is what you were arguing existed as an English word. But, as I say, get enough folk to use it and it will appear.

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If exchanged, those 2 year old phones may also be resold in the UK.

I have seen kids with smartphones newer than mine, handed down by their parents. I have not seen old people with phones that have been handed down (handed up?) by their grown up kids but it certainly happens with computers.

Mine was handed on by one of my offspring .I’d prefer to think of myself as maturing rather than old.

Think back to the first very expensive mobile phones that only made calls, then as they got a smaller and smaller and then included cameras so our sales engineers could send photos of problems on site for immediate discussion. How delighted we were with these features from something you could now keep in your pocket. We only want to advance, of course, so we must have the new features that manufacturers devise – even though we got on perfectly well without them. That happens with most products – suddenly what we were delighted with no longer has the same appeal when someone has something better.

I consciously resist this, hence my 24 year old car, 12 year old Nokia, plasma TV, lights with switches on the wall (they are electric)…….. But I am happy to have the smartphone, nearly new car for reliability, and do appreciate them.

We respond to new products I believe because we do want to be up to speed. And all marketing does generally is to address these instincts. We can dig our heels in of course.

How many cars do you have, Malcolm? I know you have a very up to date one, at least…

I have an up to date one, a 14 year old Espace and a 24 year old Espace. Worth virtually nothing to sell but to go places I wouldn’t take my up-to-date one, or to remove the seats to carry large items or rubbish for the family they have proved invaluable. Each year I think the MoT will prompt a decision, but they’ve both just passed. One needed a new rear spring, the other the headlights adjusting (common due to potholes apparently).

I have been watching Watchdog and though I am still not keen on the presentation it’s much improved – in my opinion – thanks to the departure of one well known presenter.

Series 39, Episode 3, currently available on iPlayer has a very interesting piece on the iPhone repair problem including investigation of claims by Apple about the need for repairs. So far, Watchdog has not managed to get Apple to back down on its demands for customers to pay for repairs before they qualify for reduced price battery replacements. In the following episode, Watchdog mentions getting further complaints from members of the public. I look forward to further developments.

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I confess to not being a fan of Donald and very derisive of the rhetoric used against North Korea. But look what has happened……….Unless China stepped in? However, history relates the decline and fall…….

Consumer Associations need to gear themselves up to fulfilling their mission “making the consumer as powerful as the organisations they deal with”. Just empty words so far. That should perhaps be the first objective of the new CEO.

Meanwhile, if we felt strongly enough about the Apple attitude we could stop buying their products. But most won’t.

My iPhone 6 was working fine, except that the charger port was intermittently faulty and getting worse. I was going on an extended trip away from home, so decided to get the fault repaired before I left. Sent it to Apple explaining that it only needed the charger port replacing. They would only accept the order if I pre-authorised a charge of £306. They said that this was the maximum it could cost, but that the cost would be less if the repair was a simple one. Stupid me! What did they do? They replaced the whole phone at a cost of £306. I have since seen comments that you can get a charger port replaced in about 30 minutes at a cost of about £40. Over-priced and/or unnecessary repairs is definitely a deliberate scam by Apple.

We could do with finding out about trustworthy companies that will repair Apple products at sensible prices. After finding that Apple’s idea of repairing a slightly cracked screen was to swap my iPad for a refurbished one at an expensive price I looked around but eventually just kept on using it because it still worked fine. There are companies selling Apple compatible accessories at more affordable prices but I have not got a clue about repairs.

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It’s part of a programme ‘Rip Off Britain’ featuring complaints about the company Foneangels.

For right-to-repair fans and those against planned obsolescence, some news just in from Canada:

youtube.com/watch?v=_XneTBhRPYk

Interesting link, DerekP. Is this alleged attitude by Apple defensible?

If I buy any product I should be able to fix it any way I can, and not be obstructed in that. An open repair market seems to work in the car industry without damage to the producers. Maybe Which? could examine the repair market, and the repairers. How easy, and economic, is it to have an electrical domestic appliance repaired, and how easy is it to do a diy fix. Self repair should be at the fixer’s risk and responsibility of course.

I sent my iPhone 6 into apple for a battery replacement. They contacted me to say that an additional repair was required to the phone speaker which would cost £270.00. I declined the repair and asked apple to do what they have been paid for and replace the battery. They said that they couldn’t do that and are calling me at home tonight, this is a blatant rip off. My speaker was working fine before I sent the phone to apple, to top it off they also tried to charge me twice for the change of battery and it took me three hours phoning apple to correct their admin error.