Apple's Tim Cook Apologizes to Chinese Customers

Dennis Faas's picture

Apple chief executive officer Tim Cook has apologized to the people of China. But the apology hasn't settled a dispute about whether the company broke any rules and why it came under such fierce criticism.

The issue has been in the news since the government-run China Central Television station aired the 2013 edition of an annual consumer affairs investigation show.

This year, the show's targets included Apple's warranty policies. The show claimed that Apple takes advantage of a loophole in consumer law when dealing with phones that are beyond repair and have to be replaced.

According to the show, Apple attaches the back casing of the original faulty handset to the rest of the new handset.

Apple says that what it gives the customer is technically the original handset with repairs. That means it doesn't have to start a one-year warranty period over again, as it would have to do with a replacement handset.

Apple Chief Agrees to Change Policies

Cook has now signed a letter (subsequently released on Apple's Chinese website) saying "we recognize that some people may have viewed our lack of communication as arrogant, or as a sign that we didn't care about or value their feedback. We sincerely apologize to our customers for any concern or confusion we may have caused." (Source:

Apple has promised it will now give a full one-year warranty whenever it repairs or replaces a phone. It's also agreed that for consumer law purposes it will now class an iPad as a computer, meaning it carries a two-year warranty rather than the one-year warranty that applies to phones.

The concessions haven't ended controversy over whether the criticism had any ulterior motive. As the TV show aired, several celebrities posted criticism of Apple on social media sites. It soon emerged that this was part of an orchestrated campaign.

Government-owned Media Continues Attacks

The People's Daily, a newspaper also under government control, then ran a sustained campaign of news editorials criticizing Apple over the policies. That's led to the emergence of a series of conspiracy theories, starting with suggestions that the TV station would have been more favorable to Apple if it had bought advertising time.

Other suggested explanations are that the Chinese government is trying to hurt Apple as a way to benefit domestic phone manufacturers and the state-run cellphone service providers. It's also been claimed the move may be retaliation for U.S. government claims that some Chinese tech firms pose a security risk. (Source:

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