Optus offers two year iPhone warranty, others to follow

Consumer law changes spur iPhone warranty rethink

Optus will introduce two-year warranties for Apple’s iPhone on post-paid contracts of the same length, with competitors set to follow in order to comply with changes to Australian consumer legislation.

The SingTel subsidiary became the last major Australian telco to offer two-year warranties for mobile phones following an Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) investigation into the matter in 2009.

Vodafone Hutchison Australia (VHA), which was subject to the initial investigations, changed its warranties in January last year, with Telstra following suit in October.

However, in both cases the extended warranties excluded Apple’s iPhone, which continued to have a 12-month warranty.

Introduction of Australian Consumer Law, which came into effect on 1 January 2011, allowed the ACCC to push for the inclusion of the iPhone in the set of phones covered under a warranty lasting the life of the contract.

Under the court enforceable undertakings lodged by Optus this week, the telco has agreed to provide an express repair warranty for mobile phones for the life of the contract and replace the unit within its ‘early life failure’ period, or 30 days for most manufacturers.

The telco will also review its trade practices compliance program as part of the undertaking.

Outgoing ACCC chairman, Graeme Samuel, told Computerworld Australia that Telstra and VHA would breach the new consumer legislation if they failed to provide full warranties for Apple’s iPhone, regardless of previous contracts with the industry watchdog.

“It’s not a question of having to seek it from them because in my view the law says that now quite clearly,” he said. “Whether there’s an undertaking there, the law applies in any event.”

A Telstra spokesperson said the telco would “comply with its legal obligations regarding handset warranties on iPhones, as with any other brands”.

VHA was contacted for comment but did not respond at time of writing.

It remains unclear as to how warranties will be affected beyond the global 12-month guarantee Apple currently offers for the iPhone. An Apple spokesperson refused to comment on the matter, only indicating that it was a matter of the telco’s business practices rather than the manufacturer.

Samuel said the ACCC wasn’t concerned with how the warranties were provided and confirmed the watchdog had no negotiations with the computing giant as part of the undertaking. He suggested that bulk purchase of extended warranties from Apple or establishment of in-house repair centres could be used to satisfy legal concern.

“Frankly, my view has always been that if you sold an iPhone under a 24-month contract, you have to repair if you’re the retailer,” he said.

Follow James Hutchinson on Twitter: @j_hutch

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAu

Tags Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC)AppleiPhonegraeme samueloptustelcosmobilewarranty

More about AppleAustralian Competition and Consumer CommissionAustralian Competition and Consumer CommissionHutchisonOptusTelstra CorporationVHAVodafone

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