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Below I describe the process of making a UK consumer law claim for a faulty Apple laptop. This write-up represents almost 3 months of intermittent work, 10’s of hours of phone calls and various special trips to Apple outlets.

TLDR; I was ‘successful’ in claiming a full refund for a 2012 Retina Macbook Pro totalling £2288.20. I have now purchased a new 2016 Macbook m7. The process takes a long time. Also, I believe I was mis sold Applecare, it only appears to entitle you to faster service in the first three years, beyond your basic rights as a consumer in the UK.

Summary / How to

This is what I’ve learned from my experience. You will need:

  1. A machine that’s had two major faults within a year (and had one repaired I guess?).
  2. A machine purchased less than 5 years ago (6 years in England).
  3. As much patience as you can muster. Use headphones and keep working while you wait, the Apple call center music quite good.

I think the shortest path through the process is as follows:

  1. After the second fault take the machine to a third-party Apple installation (I went to Stormfront and that worked for me). Collect evidence if the fault is intermittent.
  2. Present the laptop as if ready for return. Bring the box and accessories if you have them. State that you need to have the fault verified and that the machine is not to be repaired. You will need an Apple repair case ID and a paper EU claim form before you’re done with them. The machine may need to be sent away.
  3. Contact Applecare. Request to speak to Customer Relations, stating you have a case ID and a EU claim form. They should then arrange a collection and process the refund - this call will likely take some time and multiple sessions.

Bonus Tip: Be impossibly polite (yet firm) all the time - just let it play out.

Further Reading: Apple Products and Consumer Laws in the United Kingdom

My Story

The process outlined above took some time to learn, read on for the full story of my call center adventure.

June 2012

Working at weekend job while at school, where I worked for a period at £4.15 per hour, I amassed sufficient funds to purchase the ‘computer of my dreams’. I have been an Apple Fan since 2004 (and have the Macworld issues to prove it), this was the first time I was going to be ‘up-to-date’ and like ‘everyone else’ (on MacRumors).

I ordered my laptop on the evening of the WWDC keynote - immediately after the event in UK time.

February 2013 - March 2015

I had my laptop repaired a number of times.

March 2016

This year I had a final repair completed on my laptop for a full logic board replacement. This repair was covered under ‘Customer Satisfaction’. My Applecare had expired and this came as a relief.

The laptop, which previously didn’t boot, now worked again. However, the laptop ran hotter than before and had regular ‘visual anomalies’ that I could reproduce.

I visited the Apple store in Aberdeen, with my poorly functioning laptop which was taken in again. I also mentioned that I didn’t want the laptop to be repaired again and would like a call to discuss my options. I wasn’t clear enough in stating this preference. I was told on the phone that the thermal compound had been reapplied and that the machine was running hot but the issue was now resolved. This counts as a repair in my book but hey.

I went into the store to discuss the issue. My machine was brought out to me and I was told the automated graphics switching had been disabled. For the record, I hadn’t changed this setting. Apparently this setting had led to the machine overheating - oops my bad? This didn’t line up with what I was told on the phone and I still don’t know exactly what happened to the laptop this visit.

I wasn’t told about the graphics switching until I asked to speak to the manager. There wasn’t a manager around and I spoke to a senior member of the repair team. This was the only negative interaction I have ever had with an Apple employee. The man, who reminded me of Tommy Davis, was impossible to reason with. He would not acknowledge that the machine had been repaired and that insisted that the laptop was now functioning correctly. I was told I had no options until another fault developed.

We had a discussion about the laptop’s temperature. I had been monitoring the temperatures with iStat - he told me that these were inaccurate. My follow up was: “How does an Apple customer that is concerned with their laptop’s performance monitor its temperature?”. He attempted to show me the non-existent statistic in Activity Monitor. I knew fine well it wasn’t to be found but let him look all the same. He went to the workshop and brought out a USB temperature prong. I didn’t want to bother - I should have called his bluff. Returning to my original question, the response was: “You don’t need to worry. The laptop is designed to maintain a safe operating temperature.”.

I asked to have the paperwork for all the repairs carried out on the laptop, thanked the unhelpful staff member and left the store.

April 2016 - June 2016

Put off by my Apple store visit, I continued discussing the case online.

I continued using the laptop and recording subsequent ‘graphical anomalies’ on video. Here’s an example, and another.

I was reluctant to return to the same Apple store after my last experience. I made a series of anonymous calls to Applecare and other Apple stores asking for the best course of action. This was useful; and, coupled with the forum suggestions; gave me the information I needed to return to the store. I gathered a printed copy of Apple’s Consumer Law page and highlighted the relevant sentences.

I returned to the same store to get the faults I had recorded verified. I spoke to a friendly mac specialist at the bar and was offered a replacement machine after showing the videos and reproducing the issue. I said “I have lost confidence in the machine and am now seeking a refund under consumer law.”, this was the phrase I was advised to use by the Apple staff I’d spoken to over the phone. From what I’ve learned, there is no ‘magic phrase’ to use here.

I was informed that since the machine had been purchased before 2013 (when Apple policy changed regarding the issue - newer purchases could have been handled by the store; apparently…) I would need to contact Applecare over the phone. Thanking the representative, I left the store. I actually thought this was almost over at this point.

I called Applecare right away, only to learn after a very long conversation with multiple representatives that I would need to have the fault verified by a third-party Apple Authorized Service Point. This is part of the requirements for making a claim and I had half expected this - however, it was a pain after Apple had confirmed the fault that day in store. I had to wait a few weeks before moving back to my parents house. I needed to use the laptop to complete my final university term and there wasn’t an Authorized Service Point in Aberdeen.

I was told that I needed to present the laptop; inform them that I am making an EU claim; and await a case number when the fault had been verified. The third party was to complete the process for me.

I took the machine in. It’s clearly not a common process for staff and it took a little while to get all the paperwork sorted. Overall I had a very good experience with the Stormfront store. They were almost as lost as I was but were able to verify the fault and provide a Case ID. I contacted Apple with this only to learn that a Case ID is not enough. They were able to view the Stormfront work but also needed the EU claim form. I collected the returned laptop and incomplete form - the form is to be completed by the original retailer, not the verifying third party.

While originally wary of the empty claim form, Apple accepted this evidence and I was able to move forward in the process. This was the first time I was able to talk directly with Customer Relations - this felt like a huge milestone. In the end they required: my case ID, all the Stormfront paperwork (invoices etc.) and the incomplete claim form.

This took a few days to get approved by a senior member of the Customer Relations team. The representative called back and took my account details (you will need to have your international transfer information ready as they pay from Ireland). This request was still to be okayed by a member of the finance team. A few days later this was approved and I was told to expect the refund within 15 days. I had not yet returned the laptop and was told to wait until the refund had been processed and the money was in my account before returning the machine to a service point.

I got another call saying it’d be less than 7 days. A few days later I received a refund for ~£1740, I was expecting £2288.20. I was abroad at the time and was going to wait until I returned before following up on the issue. However, Apple called me first, they hadn’t noticed the error and requested that I return the laptop before receiving the refund (which I already had - mostly). I arranged a collection date for the day after my return.

Upon my return I made an inquiry regarding the £500 discrepancy. Interestingly I had been refunded in Euros. Another refund was processed for the difference, this one was to “take up to 2 months” and was only processed after the laptop had been returned.

Today I received that final refund - after being without a laptop for almost two weeks (luckily I’ve been able to use a 2015 13" Macbook Air, only costs around £700 refurbished and other than the screen is a nicer laptop, IMHO). My replacement laptop is scheduled to arrive later today.

Concluding; I still believe Apple laptops are the best around (though I was tempted by a Linux Dell XPS 13), I never needed dedicated GPU anyway, Apple customer support is great but needs to improve on this process to offer consistently good service.