Apple roundup: A slap in Australia, no deal in China (yet) and gifting e-books

Another day, another raft of Apple news:

• Australian regulators have slapped down Apple for misleading consumers. The Cupertino-based tech giant has agreed to broaden its warranty policy for broken and faulty devices after the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission found Apple’s policies didn’t meet the standards of a new Australian consumer-rights law.

Apple had maintained it did not have to provide a refund, replacement or repairs under a number of circumstances, when in fact the Australian Consumer Law required them to do exactly that.

“This undertaking serves as an important reminder to businesses that while voluntary or express warranties can provide services in addition to the consumer guarantee rights of the ACL, they cannot replace or remove those ACL guarantee rights,”  commission chairman Rod Simms said in a statement.

As part of the agreement, Apple has agreed to re-evaluate all warranty claims on products bought within the past two years and provide free repairs, refunds or replacements. The watchdog group retains the right to take Apple to court if it fails to comply.

• In a more consumer-friendly move, for the first time Apple’s iBookstore will provide the option to give e-books to friends. Gifting has long been an option on the App Store and iTunes Store, but the iBookstore has lacked that function. Now, book-buyers can simply select “Gift this book” from a drop-down menu and send it to the recipient with a personalized message, at a date of their choosing. The new option went into effect Tuesday. The move may give a slight bump to holiday e-book sales, which have slowed significantly this year.

• It’s Dec. 18, but there’s still no deal between Apple and China Mobile. The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month that today was the target date for such an agreement, which would open the iPhone to the world’s biggest mobile carrier.  China Mobile Chairman Xi Guohua told reporters Wednesday that the company had no announcement to make, according to a Reuters report, but that talks were continuing.

Apple is counting on a deal to greatly expand its reach in China, with estimates that it could sell another 10 million and 40 million iPhones there. China looms large in Apple’s future, as its once-spectacular growth has slowed in the U.S. Last January, CEO Tim Cook told reporters he expected China to soon become Apple’s No. 1 market.

In a move that could help future iPhone sales, China Mobile on Wednesday announced it would spend significantly more on smartphone subsidies next year as it hopes to boost sales by 42 percent, according to Bloomberg News. Subsidized phone plans could put the otherwise expensive iPhone in the reach of far more Chinese consumers.


At top: Customers view devices at an Apple Store in Beijing, China, Dec. 18, 2013. ROLEX DELA PENA/EPA


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