Apple apologises to Chinese consumers over warranty confusion

BEIJING, April 1 Mon Apr 1, 2013 1:13pm EDT

BEIJING, April 1 (Reuters) - Apple Inc Chief Executive Tim Cook apologised to Chinese consumers on Monday for confusion over its warranty policy following more than two weeks of criticism in the Chinese media of its after-sales service.

Apple is revising its warranties for the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S and simplifying its explanation of warranties and ways for customers to provide feedback, Cook said in a letter on Apple's China website.

"We are aware that owing to insufficient external communication, some consider Apple's attitude to be arrogant, inattentive or indifferent to consumer feedback," Cook said.

"We express our sincere apologies for causing consumers any misgivings or misunderstanding", he added.

The criticism of Apple began on March 15 with the broadcast of an annual show on China Central Television about consumer safety and rights.

The show assailed Apple for its after-service, including not offering new iPhones with a one-year warranty in the case of major repairs.

Now Apple will replace iPhone 4 and 4S models purchased in China with new phones in the case of such repairs, along with a new one-year warranty, Cook said in his letter.

Apple will provide simpler and clearer explanations of warranties on its website and allow customers to offer feedback directly on the site, Cook said.

The company also will give refresher training to service providers to explain the new warranty policy, he said.

The iPhone 5, the latest model, already carries a similar warranty to the new iPhone 4 and 4S coverage.

Apple's iPhones, iPods and computers are considered aspirational products in China, which is one of the Cupertino, California-based company's biggest and fastest-growing markets.

That kind of popularity makes foreign brands a target of attack in China. Other successful foreign brands such as Yum Brands Inc, which owns fast-food restaurant chain KFC, Wal-Mart Stores and Gucci have come under fire for various product and labour issues.

The March 15 CCTV show has become an annual ritual of targeting foreign as well as Chinese consumer firms.

But the show this year became the subject of online ridicule over claims the network paid celebrities to post micro-blog comments against Apple.

Thousands of Chinese netizens have come to Apple's defence, criticising Chinese firms as being the ones that lack transparency and consumer trust.

A couple walks along the rough surf during sunset at Oahu's North Shore, December 26, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

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