July 10, 2007


iPhone Carries Hidden Charges

By Pamela Mortimer


iPhone customers get a shock when informed about hidden fees not included in the product’s purchase price.



With all the hype and media coverage about Apple’s new wonder product, the iPhone, it’s a wonder that there was one thing they all missed. Not included in the purchase price of the phone is the expense of battery replacement for the gizmo.


The iPhone battery will last through approximately 300—400 charges, according to Apple. However, like many techno gadgets, the units are sealed, making it impossible for consumers to swap out the old battery for a new one.


Uh oh.


In order to get a new battery, the iPhone itself must be sent to Apple for replacement. On average, the replacement will take three business days and cost $79 plus a $6.95 shipping charge. If you include the time in transit, consumers could be without a cell phone for a week. What if someone can’t live without the iPhone? Never fear. Users can rent one for $29 until the old one arrives on the doorstep.


The big controversy arose when the public started to ask, “Why didn’t anyone tell us?” The information about the hidden fee  wasn’t even listed on the Apple website. It is now.


It appears that the battery replacement issue was glaringly absent from all four of the hands-on iPhone reviews published before the product’s June 29th launch. There were reviews published by MSNBC.com but there was no mention of the fee there, either.


Harvey Rosenfield, Director of The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, is encouraging Apple to offer free battery replacements to the estimated half-million consumers who dropped $500-$600 on the revolutionary phone. Rosenfield said he's concerned that Apple intentionally chose to withhold the information from the public.


"This was insensitive, inappropriate and possibly illegal," Rosenfield said. "We're going to monitor their response carefully."


Some reviewers noted that the battery issue was mentioned in passing. At least one was not aware of the actual cost at the time but was informed that the fee would be 'very similar to the iPod program'.


While the two programs may be similar, there is one significant difference between the iPod battery and the iPhone battery failure. Most people can live without an iPod for a few days, plus there is no associated fee that must be paid while its battery is being replaced. If an iPhone fails before two year statute is up, users will be obligated to continue to pay their monthly subscription fee to AT&T, whether or not they are using the service.


On the bright side, the battery replacement fee does not apply to consumers who need to replace the battery during Apple’s 1-year warranty. However, if the estimates are correct, many iPhones will probably require replacement at some point during the second year of the contract.


Rosenfield also called attention to other hidden iPhone fees. Unlike AT&T’s 30-day return policy, the iPhone return policy is only 14 days. And even if consumers return the phone within 14 days, there will be a 10% restocking fee.


"We all love how cool Apple products look, but that doesn't mean there isn't something wrong with these policies that need to be recognized and addressed," Rosenfield said.