Optus offers 24-month handset warranties

Brett Winterford | Jan 7, 2011 2:01 PM
Steps up to the plate to cover iPhone customers.

Optus has agreed to provide 24-month warranties for all of its mobile handset customers - including those on plans bundled with Apple iPhones - following an ACCC crackdown.

The competition watchdog has led a long campaign to force Australia's telcos to offer warranties on handsets that meet the length of service plans customers are locked in to.

Vodafone signed an undertaking in May 2010 and Telstra in October 2010 to offer 24-month warranties - but both of these specifically exempted warranties for Apple's iPhone.

iTnews has learned today that Apple continues to refuse to offer its telco partners 24-month warranties or let any third party repair its devices.

VHA had to come to an agreement with Apple whereby those customers with faulty iPhones outside of Apple's 12-month warranty could purchase a refurbished (ie repaired) iPhone for $288.

But iTnews has learned that Optus - the last to sign an undertaking with the ACCC - has gone one step further - and agreed to cover the repair costs of a faulty device for the second half of a customer's 24-month warranty at its own cost.

Apple's competitors, most recently Nokia, have struck agreements with Optus to ensure customers get a full 24-month service without placing too greater burden on customer or carrier. In the case of Nokia, the manufacturer will take on some of the repair work at its own cost.

ACCC chair Graeme Samuel said he was pleased with Optus' move.

"We now have a situation where consumers who purchase a mobile phone on a fixed contract have a warranty for the life of the contract," Samuel said in a statement today.

Samuel said retailers (such as telcos) "cannot wipe your hands clean of a faulty product just because the manufacturer's warranty period has ended, particularly when your product is supplied in conjunction with a lock-in contract that is longer than the manufacturer's warranty period."

Samuel predicted in October 2010 that should Apple continue to be "difficult" with its carrier partners, its belligerence would only drive up the prices of plans featuring iPhones in comparison with other smartphones and harm its competitive position in the marketplace.

In a poll run on iTnews between October 2010 and November 2010, 81 percent of over 1000 respondents said they would expect Apple to offer 24-month warranties rather than have telcos absorb the cost of iPhone repairs in its plans (19 percent).

Apple was offered an opportunity to comment, but again declined.