By Don Southerton
First, I’m a huge Apple fan. That said, Apple needs to be much more Korean cross-cultural savvy. They need a success strategy for their ongoing Korean operations and product releases with major Korean electronics industry providers Samsung and LG on one hand key suppliers to Apple, but also the local and powerful competition. ( I have some ideas… but of course that’s much of what I do for firms).
Two stories surfaced this week…
Korea Herald ( via Bloomberg News) shared Apple says iPhone service complies with Korean rules
Apple Inc. said its iPhone service policy is in compliance with Korean customer-service regulations, and the company doesn’t plan to change its global service warranty policy for local customers after complaints.
“We been advised by our legal council and assured Apple’s one-year limited warranty also complies with the local Korean law,” Farrel Farhoudi, senior director for Apple’s iPhone service, told lawmakers in Seoul on Wednesday. “Apple is committed to following all local laws and regulations of Korea.”
Farhoudi was summoned after Korean buyers of the iPhone complained about Apple’s after-sales service in the country. A 13-year old user of the iPhone sued Apple’s Korean unit after Apple didn’t provide a free repair, the first lawsuit against the U.S. company related to its customer service in Korea, Yonhap News reported on Oct. 19. Steve Park, an Apple spokesman in Seoul, declined to comment on the report.
Apple has sold more than 1 million iPhones in Korea since the first model went on sale at the end of 2009, according to KT Corp., the exclusive provider of the device in the nation.
Earlier this year, Apple, based in Cupertino, California, said it will offer replacements for iPod Nano music players in Japan that overheat, following calls by the government to take measures to prevent the devices from catching fire.
Meanwhile Korea Times pointed out Antitrust Watchdog Targets Apple
|Debate continues over after-sales policies for iPhones By Kim Yoo-chul
The FTC says it is working together with the Korea Communications Commission (KCC), the country’s converged regulator for broadcasting and telecommunications, to seek ways to take an action against possible violations in after-sales services rules by the American technology giant.
The revelation indicates that regulators here are becoming impatient and angry over Apple’s tricky pace in adjusting its discriminatory customer support policies for the Korean market.
Apple has sold more than 1 million iPhones in Korea through local wireless carrier, KT, since November last year, with its latest gadget, the iPhone 4, extending the hot streak of its products here.
“We have been studying closely on whether Apple’s after-sales policies employed to the market here violate our fair trade regulations regarding customer protection. We are looking deeply into the complaints,’’ FTC Chairman Chung Ho-yul said, last week.
“It will be important to confirm whether Apple has been employing discriminatory services to Korean consumers in comparison to how they serve their customers in the United States and China. If Apple violates local rules, it will be our responsibility to correct it,’’ according to the chairman.
Such remarks by the top official at the anti-trust agency against Apple’s discriminatory service policies are the first time ever since the arrival of the 3GS-based iPhones, November, last year.
Korean law requires companies to offer refunds or replacement for products that inexplicably develop problems within 10 days of purchase.
Consumers are granted the right to demand a replacement or free repair services for products within a month of purchase.
However, Apple hasn’t been offering such options for Korean iPhone customers, according to the FTC, as users here aren’t offered new products or get their original handsets back after repair, but are rather given a random refurbished phone from Apple’s vast inventory after a waiting period.
Apple normally charges around 300,000 won (about $250) here for a refurbished phone, but complaints have been reported about the quality of the devices, including damaged surfaces and earphone defections.
The resistance toward Apple’s refurbished phones encouraged more customers to go to the third-party repair market, which mostly rely on cheap, non-Apple-approved parts from China and other countries to fix faulty iPhones at a cheaper cost, although there are grumblings of the uneven qualities of the phones after the makeshift surgeries.
Although Apple has begun to provide a certain level of repair services for iPhone 4 users, the 900,000 or so users of its previous model, iPhone 3GS, continue to complain about being left out.
Recently, a 13-year-old iPhone user made headlines after suing Apple for its refusal to provide free after-sales services.
There are also claims that Apple has been providing a better level of customer services in China.
Apple is offering a wider range of repair services for users in China, according to the FTC, instead of just providing refurbished phones, and is providing more flexibility in terms of refunds there as well.
“Officials at the FTC and KCC appear to be nearing an agreement on what would be the right actions against Apple. The handset vendor is making a lot of money here, and it should also be held responsible to provide a level of after-sales services that live up to local standards,’’ said a FTC official.
“Apple apparently has been too slow to correct its problems.’’
Steve Park, an Apple Korea representative, wasn’t available for comment.
Appearing in a parliamentary audit on the FTC, Farrel Farhoudi, a senior director of Apple’s customer service policies, says that the level of after-sales services to Korean consumers will improve once the company fully establishes its Apple Store retail networks here.
Apple has no plans to change its one-year limited warranty it provides for iPhone customers here, he said.
“Let’s see what happens. It would be difficult for Apple to maintain its business momentum, here, without implementing better service policies,’’ said a KCC official.
“The FTC and KCC will hold a thorough investigation of Apple,’’ said the official, without elaborating further.