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Apple, Volkswagen targets of consumer rights anger

2013-03-16 13:40 Shanghai Daily     Web Editor: Mo Hong'e comment

Apple Inc's after-sales service in China was condemned yesterday and two carmakers - Volkswagen and Jianghuai - were criticized for problems with their vehicles. 

The companies were highlighted on a special "3.15" news program on China Central Television for Consumer Rights Day.

Apple's iPhone and iPad repair policy didn't meet national requirements, the TV program said. 

Employees in Apple's authorized services centers declined to replace the backs of iPhones being repaired, the program reported.

"We are told not to replace the back. If you want to get a new one, please pay 580 yuan (US$92)," an employee told the program.

Apple's directly operated Apple Stores do replace the backs when iPhones are repaired but such stores only exist in Shanghai, Beijing, Chengdu and Shenzhen.

Apple was also said to only provide a one-year guarantee for iPads where national policy dictates that all computers and their components should provide a two-year guarantee, the program said. 

Apple China said last night: "We pay attention to the feedback from every consumer and try to provide services beyond consumer expectation." 

It said it currently had 500 authorized centers in 270 cities nationwide.

Consumers were also warned to protect their privacy when using's services and Android phones., one of China's major Internet portals, was found to be collecting people's information without permission and using it to send targeted advertisements to their e-mail accounts, the program said.

Many Android phones and applications also led to the leaking of personal information, it said. 

The Android operating system accounts for 70 percent of the domestic smart phone market.

Volkswagen's DSG gearbox, an electronic, dual-clutch, multiple-shaft, manual gearbox found in many popular models, suffered abnormal noise during transmission and sudden loss of speed or acceleration, the program said. 

A video provided by a Volkswagen customer showed his DSG-equipped car suddenly losing speed without warning. 

Car buyers told the program there was no indication before such things happened, and Volkswagen car dealerships could not detect anything suspicious either. 

One car owner said "it was like driving a time bomb."

Though Volkswagen had recalled the affected cars to update software, it was not a fully fledged recall because the company didn't acknowledge it as a safety issue.

However, the software update didn't fix the problem. 

The company extended the warranty for the gearbox to an unprecedented 10 years and 160,000 kilometers but that didn't satisfy buyers.

"The warranty can be extended, but our life can't," one car owner said.

In a video aired on the program, a Volkswagen dealer admitted that the move by the company was largely to restore consumer confidence. 

On its official weibo microblog, Volkswagen said: "We take this report very seriously and we will quickly make contact with our consumers to resolve the issue."

Li Yuanping, a spokesman for the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, said the government was paying close attention to the DSG issue. 

Domestic brand Jianghuai was exposed for cutting corners when building its Tojoy model. A company official admitted to the program that Jianghuai used cheaper ordinary steel sheet instead of galvanized steel.

"Otherwise, how can the company control the budget for building a car sold at under 70,000 yuan?" he said.

But buyers complained of serious rusting as a result. 

The "3.15" show, whose name refers to the date of Consumer Rights Day, has named and shamed a number of prominent companies in the past.

Last year it singled out fast food giant McDonald's for food safety violations.

The company was forced to apologize and irs share price slumped as China's army of half a billion microbloggers unleashed their anger in online comments.

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