Tim Cook issues an apology to Apple's Chinese customers

April 1, 2013: 12:11 PM ET

Improves Apple's warranty policies in China following a state-sponsored smear campaign

Screen Shot 2013-04-01 at 11.50.13 AMFORTUNE -- Two weeks after China's Central Television accused Apple (AAPL) of giving Chinese customers second-rate repair service on its iPhones and iPads -- a charge echoed and amplified by editorials in the People's Daily -- CEO Tim Cook posted a signed apology on Apple's Chinese-language website.

A public apology was one of the demands made last week by the China Consumer's Association -- a government funded watchdog group.

Cook's letter begins:

"In the past two weeks, we have received a significant amount of feedback about our repair and warranty practices in China. We have thoughtfully considered the feedback, carefully reviewed the return, repair and replacement policies with regulators, and examined how we communicate our hardware warranties as well as manage our service provider compliance. In the process of studying the issues, we recognize that some people may have viewed our lack of communication as arrogant, or as a sign that we didn't care about or value their feedback. We sincerely apologize to our customers for any concern or confusion we may have caused."

What follows seems to be a recapitulation of Apple's published return and repair policies with two key changes in Apple's coverage of the iPhone 4 and 4S:

Henceforth, 1) all repairs in China will be made using new (not refurbished) parts and 2) the repaired phones will get new 1-year warranties from the date of repair.

Cook's letter also clarifies that all Apple computers -- including iPads -- sold in China will come with 2-year warranties on major components. The inclusion of iPads under the "computer" umbrella was another of China's consumer association's demands and may be received in China as a significant concession.

The letter ends:

"We appreciate the feedback that we've received, and we have a tremendous respect for China. Our customers here will always be central to our thoughts."

Tim Cook
Apple CEO

For background on the controversy, see:

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Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

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