Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Rotten Apples

Shit happens, so when my MacBook Pro died in February 2013, I thought it was just bad luck, and though I was disappointed in Apple, I decided to shell out the €700 to have its logic board replaced. With a brand new core, my machine would last for years. At least, I hoped so.

Last summer, history repeated itself, and my MacBook Pro died again, with symptoms resembling February 2013. Fortunately, Dutch consumer law protects the innocent with the notion of 'conformity': in this case, I can expect a logic board I paid €700 for to last longer than one and a half year. Unfortunately, MacCity in Emmeloord, that had taken in my MBP for repair, initially did not respond at all, and then simply stated that they gave me only 1 year of guarantee. I sent them a formal letter, issuing a consumer claim, but the registered mail was refused. This company had dealt with complaints before. A second letter was answered with a response that my claim was rejected because my MacBook Pro had been repaired, and was not a new product, Apple had declared it 'vintage', so it would not be serviced anyways, Apple Canada was responsible, and the defect needed to be verified by an Authorized Apple Service Provider. In a subsequent email I explained that consumer law does apply to new computer parts, Apple notion of 'vintage' is not recognized by Dutch law,  the company that sold me the new logic board, i.e. MacCity, is responsible, and it suffices to have my MBP diagnosed by an independent lab. MacCity choose to ignore my reply. Indeed, they had experience with complaining customers!

I decided to take up the gauntlet and follow the money. A phone call with some Apple Authorized Service Providers revealed that my MacBook Pro had been repaired by MicroFix in Amsterdam. To my surprise, my contact suggested the logic board had been repaired, while I had paid for a new logic board. This was getting a little smelly. MicroFix refused to provide me any documentation on my repair, as they only wanted to deal with MacCity directly. So, there was no way for me to put the finger on the rotten apple: had MacCity asked MicroFix to patch up my logic board, and make me pay for a new board, had MicroFix played a trick on MacCity, or had mother Apple been involved? The mere fact that neither MacCity nor MicroFix showed even the slightest interest in proving me that I had gotten the new logic board I had paid for, suggested Apple was speaking the truth, so I decided to continue my inquiry with Apple.

Contacting Apple is easier said than done. I spent days writing, emailing, chatting and phoning Apple support engineers, Apple managers and Apple idiots, from Amsterdam, to Cork, to Cupertino, and the majority of them refused to answer my letters, emails, and calls, told me to write, email or call somebody else, or bluntly refused to answer my questions. For some reason, Apple was not interested in proving that Apple and associated companies were doing a good job. Apple did not care.

My concerns boiled down to one question. Apple is known to keep a registry of all Apple parts that are replaced by its service provider. So, if my logic board had been replaced, where did it go? It took me a couple of weeks to finally reach a support engineer who confirmed that (i) there was no information available to Apple about my 'replaced' logic board, which indicated that (ii) my logic board had not been replaced, but repaired instead. And, no, he could not provide me with the official documents of the repair history of my MBP. It was not the proof I had hoped for, but it was a strong indication there was something rotten in the state of The Netherlands.

I decided to climb the Apple tree, and it did not take long before I was contacted by Margaret Lordan, Executive Relations EMEIA of Apple Distribution International in Cork, Ireland. I had to look it up: EMEIA stands for Europe, Middle East India and Africa. And, yes, that is the branch of Apple that refuses to pay tax in Europe. Margaret Lordan refused to answer my letters and emails, and when I finally managed to get to her by phone, I understood why: she coldly told me that Apple does not consider itself bound by Dutch law, if I do not agree I better hire a lawyer, and if I do not like Apple, I better move to Microsoft Windows.

So, that is what I did. I configured a PC to run Ubuntu Linux, will install Windows for the software that does not run on Linux, and started my quest for legal help. The latter, however, was more complicated than I had hoped. Dutch consumer law is just a piece of paper, as we will see.


Anonymous said...

I am having a similar battle with Ms Lordan who said much the same. Apple don't do mediation either so I have to sue them. She stands out from the rest of the crowd at Apple. For all the wrong reasons.

In my case they know they are wrong but can't admit it because it could open up a class action under UK law. They are relying on my not talking the risk of losing and having to pay their fees. However the system here is quite protective against those who are unreasonable so I am pressing ahead.

It is astonishing the lengths they go to when they need to cover up.

Izak van Langevelde said...

Situation in The Netherlands are a little different: consumer organisations, tv shows, government institutes and the Ministry of Economical Affairs are mainly staring at their own dicks, and lack the guts to stand up against a behemoth like Apple. This issue is probably best solved by 16 bikers with a jerrycan of gasoline walking into an Apple Store.

Anonymous said...

Good luck with that! Even here in Cupertino, Margaret Lordan is hated for being impossible to deal with, aka TBFC (The Bitch From Cork). Both TBFC and her accomplish Veronica Vermeylen have quite a reputation.