Apple has apologized to Chinese consumers for its iPhone warranty policies in China after state-owned media attacked its customer service in a two-week-long campaign.
Apple CEO Tim Cook took an unusual step and apologized on Monday in a statement posted on the company’s Chinese website, saying the complaints had prompted “deep reflection” and urged the company to revamp its repair policies.
“We are aware that a lack of external communication … led to the perception that Apple’s attitude was arrogant and that we do not care and attach importance to consumer feedback,” Cook said in the letter.
“We express our sincere apologies for any concerns or misunderstandings this gives consumers.”
The apology follows weeks of criticism from Chinese media outlets of Apple’s customer service and warranty policies.
State-owned broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) criticized the American company’s practices on Consumer Rights Day on March 15 in a broadcast of an investigative report on how companies operating in China cheat or mistreat consumers.
The People's Daily, the official mouthpiece of the Communist party, followed with articles, including a March 27 editorial headlined: "Strike down Apple's incomparable arrogance."
The negative reports focused on complaints that Apple repaired broken iPhones instead of replacing the devices, and that warranties weren’t sufficiently long.
While Apple said 90% of customers had been satisfied by the fixes it had been making, the company also said it would replace those handsets with new ones and offer extended warranties.
Apple will also simplify its explanation of warranties and ways for customers to provide feedback, Cook said. “We have tremendous respect for China,” Cook said. “Our customers here will always be central to our thoughts.”
Apple’s move underscores China’s importance to the company, whose stock has fallen in the past six months amid concerns about slowing sales and profit growth, according to Bloomberg.
China, which is Apple’s second largest market after US, accounted for $22.8 billion in sales in fiscal 2012. The company sold more than 2 million iPhone 5s in the first weekend it went on sale there.
By no coincidence, the criticism of Apple comes as the relationship between China and US has been worsening, with the US government’s pressure on Beijing over cybersecurity issues and the US Congress calling for restriction on buying gear from Huawei and ZTE, in fear that the Chinese vendors could engage in espionage.