iConGroup, the official importer and distributor of Apple products in Israel, and the marketing network iDigital breached their obligation to provide replacement parts for iPad and iPod devices for two years from the date of purchase, and failed to inform consumers that replacement parts could not be purchased. This emerges from a class action lawsuit filed by the Israel Consumers Council and upheld by Lod Central District Court, which ruled that there was reasonable chance that it would issue judgement in favor of the consumers, who would then be entitled to cancel the purchase and receive compensation. The lawsuit was filed through Attorney Prof. Alon Clement and the law firm of Gil Ron, Keinan & Co.
The Israel Consumers Council has received many complaints against iDigital – a marketer for iConGroup, an importer of Apple products – regarding the company's refusal to enable consumers to purchase replacement parts to repair defective iPad and iPod devices, while that the only way to "fix" the problem is to purchase a Replacement and Repair Kit – namely, a replacement device costing 75% of the original product price. To cite an example, a consumer who wanted to purchase a new screen was refused on the grounds that there were no replacement parts and that the only way to repair the product was to purchase the Replacement and Repair kit.
According to Adv. Yael Cohen-Shawat, Deputy Attorney General of the Israel Consumers Council, "This is shameful on the part of companies and a serious violation of consumer rights. It’s a double violation; it not only cheats consumers out of money, it’s also a breach of trust. One expects a company that takes pride in being an official importer to provide consumers with replacement parts, and if it is unable to do so, it should inform consumers of this in advance of their purchase. This is high-level consumer deception. We will not tolerate this kind of harm to consumers, and we will not be silenced until this injustice is rectified."
The court ruled that the companies allegedly violated both the provisions of the Consumer Protection Law which prohibits deceptive practices in transactions – in this case the lack of an option to purchase replacement parts – and the regulations pertaining to after-sales service, which stipulate that the manufacturer or importer must provide replacement parts for one year from the end of the warranty period – i.e. two years. The court further ruled that in light of the companies’ policy to keep a defective device in their possession and only return it to the customer if he purchases it back at list price, they have thereby allegedly violated Consumer Council regulations requiring service provider to leave a replaced defective part with the customer, at no cost.
The defendants argued that the complete replacement device is the relevant replacement part, adding that its policy benefits the consumer and is consistent with global Apple policy. The court ruled that, apparently, the defendant’s policy in Israel is not practiced worldwide, and that repair services for these products are provided elsewhere in the world. The defendants further claimed that during the relevant period, they received the approval of the Commissioner for Consumer Protection for their policy. To support this claim, they presented a letter requesting the approval of the commissioner, which was not answered. The court ruled that even if the Commissioner had given his approval, he has no authority to approve unlawful conduct.
Furthermore, it became clear that at the time of contact with the Commissioner, the iPod device had not yet been released, thus making it impossible to deduce from the correspondence with the Commissioner that any kind of approval was given regarding this device.
During the deliberations, it became clear that even before the request was submitted, iDigital began providing repair service through an external laboratory. The court held that in these circumstances it could not be argued that there was no way of providing repair services due to the structure of the devices, as the defendants had tried to argue.