Chinese authorities investigating Apple for violations in customer service

China's state-run media had earlier slammed Apple for alleged problems in its warranty policies

Chinese authorities are investigating Apple for violations in its customer service, after state-run media ran reports critical of the company's warranty policies in the country.

The State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC) announced the investigations in response to reported problems with Apple's repair services, said an administration spokesman on Friday. SAIC, which enforces China's trade laws, has directed its offices across the country to step up monitoring of the company, he added.

This past month, the nation's state-run media has slammed the U.S. tech giant for its customer service, calling it unfair. On March 15, television network CCTV ran a segment alleging that Apple customers abroad receive better warranty support than those based in China.

In China, Apple will only repair the internal components of a faulty iPhone, rather than replace the entire handset like the company does in other countries, the CCTV report claimed. Apple will also refuse to restart its one-year warranty on broken phones that received extensive repairs, the report added. By only replacing the internal components of the phone instead of replacing the whole device, Apple avoids a requirement in Chinese law that it restart the device's one-year warranty, CCTV alleged.

In response, Apple said that its warranty policy adheres to local laws, and is roughly the same as its policies in the U.S. and other regions. China's People's Daily publication, however, quickly rejected Apple's explanation and called it self-serving in an editorial this Monday.

"In addressing the after-sales service double standard, Apple decided to only issue a 200-word statement that was full of empty talk and self-recognition, and furthermore offered no solution," the front-page article said.

News of the SAIC's actions were reported by local Chinese publications, with headlines stating that Apple's "tyrannical" customer service conditions would be investigated. But despite the criticism, the complaints of Apple's customer service in China have been "overblown," said Ben Cavender, an analyst with China Market Research Group.

"For the most part, consumers aren't really being put off too much by Apple in terms of customer service," he said. "But if the government investigations do get more press, it could impact them (Apple) more negatively."

Chinese media also regularly calls out foreign companies on alleged problems with their products or services, Cavender added. Others such as McDonalds, Carrefour have also been targeted in the past.

"Partially it's justified. These brands have had problems. But I think there's a bit of sensationalism," he said.

Apple did not immediately respond for comment.

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Michael Kan

IDG News Service
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