Apple Crumbles to Consumer Court Defeat

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Apple have been successfully sued by a plucky consumer who challenged the technology giant’s claim that the sport edition of its Apple Watch was impact resistant. The result serves as a reminder to all businesses that misleading product descriptions can land them in breach of consumer legislation and vulnerable to claims.

Mr Cross from Aberystwyth bought his Apple Watch Sport in July 2015 for £339, however 10 days after making the purchase he noticed a crack in the watch’s face. Upon approaching Apple to obtain a repair he was informed that the damage was not covered under the product’s standard warranty (which excludes accidental damage), despite Mr Cross’ insistence that he had not subjected the watch to anything strenuous since it was purchased.

Apple’s refusal to repair the watch prompted Mr Cross to make a claim in his local small claims court under the Sale of Goods Act 1979, his argument being that the damage to the watch was indicative of a breach of the implied term that the item will correspond with its description. Mr Cross referred to Apple’s assertion that the Ion-X glass used for Apple Watch Sport was “especially resistant to impact and scratches”, and stated that he relied upon this factor when deciding to purchase the watch due to his own tendency to knock into things.

The court agreed that this description was misleading and found in favour of Mr Cross, to whom Apple were ordered to refund the cost of the watch plus £429 in court fees.  The result came despite the fact that nowhere within the Apple Watch’s primary advertising materials was scratch or impact resistance mentioned, which instead appeared within the product’s official description on Apple’s website.

The decision clearly demonstrates the potential ramifications of overstating a product’s benefits. Whether a description is writ large on a billboard advertisement or is simply, as in this case, one of several features espoused within a detailed product description on the relevant webpage, it will form part of the consumer contract and will be open to challenge. Small print in the terms and conditions will also form part of the contract.

Although its implementation on 1st October 2015 came too late to apply to Mr Cross’ case, the Consumer Rights Act 2015 (which replaced the Sales of Goods Act 1979 for consumer contracts) only serves to strengthen consumer protections in this field. The rules on satisfactory quality and description remain the same, however the law has been expanded to, amongst other things, cover the standard of digital content and state that products requiring professional installation will now count as not conforming if they are otherwise satisfactory but installed incorrectly.

If you have any questions about whether your terms of business and marketing materials comply with the new consumer legislation or require assistance with any other commercial matter, please do not hesitate to contact me at john.pickervance@forbessolicitors.co.uk or on 0800 689 0831.

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