Monday, April 10, 2006

APPLE AT HEIGHT OF ITS POWER AND ARROGANCE

When a hard disc fails, what rights does a consumer have to recover data from the faulty drive? My recent experience with Apple came as a big surprise.


I’m a reformed Apple zealot. Like most Apple zealots, my passion for the company and its products was beyond good reason. Like an aggrieved former zealot, my contempt for the company and its practices now runs deep.

My story is fairly simple.

In October 2005, the hard drive in my Apple Powerbook G4 computer melted down in Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam – where I spend a lot of my time. I hoped beyond hope that the problem was software related and spent lots of time communicating with Apple service people in India via Skype. It became clear after a while that this was likely a hardware meltdown. The machine was a little over one year old but I’d purchased an optional three year warranty package known as Apple Care. All good apart from the immediate inconvenience – or so I thought.

After searching for an Apple service centre in Ho Chi Minh City unsuccessfully, I decided to defer the repair until I returned to Sydney where I purchased the machine. In Vietnam, there were plenty of people ready to sell Apple equipment, none it seemed were able to service them. The Apple website did not seem to offer any assistance in locating service centres either.

So back to Sydney I headed with dodgy computer in hand. On arrival, I dropped the machine at the Apple Centre Broadway. They advised shortly thereafter that the hard drive was dead. I paid for a 24 hour express diagnosis – who can wait for the repair of a work laptop?

After eight days or so, a new hard drive was installed (seemed like a long wait to me) and I then started to focus my attention on recovering data from the faulty drive. Problem was, I was due to head back to Vietnam right away.

I am fairly good with backup but I was concerned I may have lost some precious image files. It was worth it to run a recovery from my perspective to ensure that these weren’t lost.

I asked the service centre to see whether they could recover data. They instigated a recovery ($282.00) that failed to locate the data I was concerned about. By this time I was back in Vietnam and in a mild panic about potentially lost data.

Dino had previously recommended a professional data recovery centre specialising in extracting hard to access data from dodgy drives. I thought I should get hold of the drive and give this a go.

That’s when the trouble began.

Apple Broadway advised that I must purchase the dud drive at full commercial value of a new drive if I wanted to take possession of it. I was appalled. All I wanted was to recover my own data. Apple could have the drive back after that. The only value of the drive was my data. How could Apple charge me to access that? Wasn’t I an aggrieved customer already having experienced a failed drive 13 months after the purchase of my Powerbook G4? The drive had no other value. Surely that was my right?

Not according to Apple. If you want to access your drive, you need to buy it back! I only needed it for a week or so! Nup. I was told I had to purchase it.

Under duress from Vietnam, my prime concern was the data so after much protest, I passed over $374.00 to purchase the dodgy piece of hardware at the centre of the fiasco.

On my return to Australia in January, I decided to take this outrageous policy up with Apple. 3 months later, I have made no headway. The trail of correspondence is below if you have time to read it. I have spoken to four Customer Service people.

In essence then, if an Apple customer wants to recover data from a faulty Apple disc, even under warranty, that Apple customer must buy the faulty disc. Shocked? So was I.

POSTSCRIPT

After sending this story and all of the accompanying correspondence (7 long emails) and advising of my intentioning of taking legal action, Apple finally agreed to refund the cost of the disc - After 6 months and untold hours of squabbling. It shouldn't have been that hard. Shame on Apple!

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