Do you really need AppleCare for your iPhone? A guide to your consumer rights

18 September 2017

If you're going to drop $1500+ (yikes!) on a brand new iPhone, it helps to know that your investment is protected in the event of breakdowns or damage.  Apple offers its own AppleCare service and complimentary limited warranty, but Australia's consumer laws also provide iPhone owners with a degree of protection.

Read on to find out what Apple does and doesn't cover, what rights you already have as a consumer under Australian law, and what to do if your iPhone needs an iFix. 

Consumer law vs. Apple Limited Warranty vs. AppleCare: a quick primer

When you buy your new iPhone, you'll automatically receive certain protections under Australian Consumer Law. In addition, Apple includes a one-year Limited Warranty for both your phone and all Apple accessories contained in the original packaging, plus 90 days of complimentary telelphone support for both hardware and software.

However, you do have the option of shelling out for an extended warranty with AppleCare+. But at $299 for two years of coverage, it's not cheap.

Australian Consumer Law
Apple Limited Warranty
Is repair or replacement offered?
Is accidental damage covered?NoNoYes, up to two claims in 24 months
Is software covered?Yes, if faultyNoYes
Coverage periodA 'reasonable period' after purchase, usually 24 months12 months after purchase  24 months after purcahse
Claim throughSellerApple (in store, online, or via phone)Apple (in store, online, or via phone)
Tech support? NoFor 90 days after purchaseFor 24 months after purchase

Apple Limited Warranty

Chargers and earphones aren’t the only accessory you’ll get thrown in when you purchase a new iPhone. All Apple hardware purchases also include the company’s Limited Warranty, which gives customers a year of protection for their product (and two years for Apple Watch Edition buyers).

Apple’s Limited Warranty Coverage is provided free, applies to everything included in your product’s original packaging, and offers repair or replacement in the event of after-purchase defects. Coverage is included for faults or malfunctions in your phone’s ‘materials and workmanship’, provided you’re using your device normally.

Customers also receive free telephone support for the first 90 days with their new iPhone. This support includes assistance with basic set-up, installation, assembly and connectivity, for both your Apple hardware and iOS software. 

AppleCare Protection Plan / AppleCare +

Although you’ll get one year of Apple’s Limited Warranty included free when you buy your iPhone, you can also opt for extended protection, via the AppleCare + (formerly the AppleCare Protection Plan). AppleCare + for iPhone gives consumers two years of coverage against hardware damage, mechanical and software failure and manufacturing errors or defects, plus two years of 24/7 technical software support online or over the phone.

AppleCare provides cover for two incidents of damage over 24 months, either to the screen or to the device itself. However, repairs will require you to pay a service fee/deductible: $45 for screen damage, and $149 for other damages. Repairs and replacements are available both locally and overseas, but customers should be aware that in the event of a claim, they won't receive a brand new iPhone.

You can buy AppleCare+ protection directly from Apple when you purchase your new iPhone, or up to 60 days after your iPhone purchase. You’ll need to provide proof of your iPhone purchase via receipts if you decide to buy later, but you can sign up for AppleCare online, over the phone, or in any Apple Store.

Australian Consumer Law

A customer’s right to seek reparations for faulty products are covered in Australia by the Australian Consumer Law, which applies to all states and territories and regulates fair trading and consumer protection.

What consumers need to know is that warranties issued by manufacturers do not restrict a customer's rights. Apple's warranty can't override or limit the Australian Consumer Law, and just because your coverage has expired - or a fault isn't covered by the manufacturer - doesn't necessarily mean you're not entitled to assistance or compensation from a retailer under Australian legislation.

The law states that:

  • Consumers have the right to ask for a repair, replacement or refund for goods that are faulty, unsafe, look unacceptable or don't work the way that they're supposed to.
  • Australian consumers are entitled to a refund or replacement for a major failure and compensation for any other reasonably unexpected loss or damage.
  • Consumers are also entitled to have goods repaired or replaced if they are not of acceptable quality, even if there is no major failure.
  • For minor issues, businesses may choose whether to repair, refund or replace the faulty item, and any repairs must happen within a 'reasonable time frame'.
  • For major problems, consumers are given the choice between a replacement or a full refund.

Phone manufacturers and telco providers must ensure the goods they sell are fit for purpose, match the description provided and any sample or demonstration models, and have the same qualities and level of performance that have been advertised or promised by the seller.

Apple vs. the law

A key thing to remember regarding Apple's warranty options and your rights as a consumer - although Apple state they don't provide coverage for 'non-Apple branded accessories' (even if they are packaged with an Apple product), under Australian consumer law you are still entitled to a refund, repair or replacement from your retailer where the product was purchased, if the accessory is faulty or damaged.

This includes Apple stores and resellers: the law states that if a product is not fit for purpose or faulty, the retailer who supplied it to a customer has an obligation to resolve the issue. Despite the company having a publicised history of referring customers to third party manufacturers, their terms and conditions don't overrule consumer law; it's Apple's job to assist you with any item you purchased from their stores.

However, there is a downside: phone manufacturers such as Apple do not have to provide a refund or replacement if the customer doesn't have proof of purchase, has simply changed their mind, if they themselves have caused damage (intentionally or through obvious neglect), or the customer was aware of a fault prior to making the purchase. 

Help, I lost my phone!

Bad news: even if you're signed on for the premium AppleCare+, you are not covered in the event of the loss or theft or your iPhone. If either of these are a concern - along with liquid or fire damage - you may want to look into smartphone insurance.

Insurance is usually offered by your telco as part of your smartphone plan or contract, is added to your monthly service bill, and protects against the issues that standard and extended warranties usually won't cover - namely lost and stolen phones, plus almost all accidental damage. 

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