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Summary:

Is Apple responsible for thefts of its products that happen after a user takes possession? I’m inclined to answer with a resounding “no,” but that’s not how everyone feels, according to a recently concluded lawsuit by a Toronto-based lawyer.

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Is Apple responsible for thefts of its products that happen after a user takes possession? I’m inclined to answer with a resounding “no,” but that’s not how everyone feels, according to a recently concluded lawsuit by a Toronto-based lawyer (via The Toronto Star).

Michael Deverett sued Apple after his new MacBook Pro, an iPod touch, cables and software were stolen from his car immediately following a purchase at the Apple Store in Toronto’s Yorkdale Mall. The grounds for his suit? Apple has “a duty of care” to warn store customers about the potential threat of theft, since, Deverett claimed, rings of thieves in the U.S. have been directly targeting Apple Store customers for some time now.

Deverett managed to settle for $2,300, roughly the cost of his stolen goods, as well as $345 in legal fees, but I tend to agree with Apple’s statement in the court filings that “[i]t would be next to impossible to warn each customer that, depending on what part of town they may drive to next, they may be the target of a theft,” and that as a result “Apple Canada does not owe a duty of care regarding stolen products, in particular if it is not notified by the owner.”

But Deverett also says that his MacBook Pro was serviced by Apple even after being reported stolen, which is a much more valid cause for concern. When similar issues regarding stolen iPhones were brought up earlier this year, however, TheNextWeb’s Matt Brian rightly pointed out the policy might have more to do with protecting employee safety than an unwillingness to help out.

Apple already provides Find My iPhone and Find My Mac tools to help those who’ve lost devices potentially recover them; that’s more than most other electronics manufacturers can currently say. Deverett seems to think that’s not enough. Does anyone else agree?

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  1. The should be able to brick an iPhone with no chance for restore. Thus making stolen iPhones useless.

    1. I am an Apple Developer-
      Well, it is possible using the online feature of “Find My iPhone” on the iCloud website, https://www.icloud.com. Navigate to Find My iPhone, and then click on Remote Wipe, then set a 5 digit password that you can use to unlock it in the event it is found or returned. Please note, this feature also works with iPod touches, Macs, and iPads.

      1. Wow, I’ve never heard of these programs you’re referring to. Thanks for the heads up.

  2. I once found an iPod and attempted to contact Apple in order for them to contact the owner. As you know, when you first install iTunes and sync your music, it makes note of the serial number – so surely Apple has this info. However, they refused to provide it (which I understand) and also refused to contact the owner of the Apple ID associated with that device (which I *don’t* understand).

    They don’t need to be *responsible* for your goods, but they could at least be *helpful*, given the fact that they often have a chain of contact through serial numbers, etc.

  3. As an employee of “AppleCare”, this situation regretfully comes up once or twice a week. We are by policy forced to treat any customer the same as any other customer. If someone calls up and has a different name on the registry, we can still help them, but can’t set up a service, repair or replacement.
    We assist the police in the origional owner’s PRO-ACTIVE search for their goods, but if not reported to the police there is little we do as technical support to get involved in legal and theft issues.

    We are told in training of an enterprising advisor who contacted a customer to let him know that his iPod was stolen when a strange person called up, only to have his word taken to court because a wife had stolen from the ex-husband.

    In short, I think it’s unfair to assume that tech support advisors have a duty of care to report stolen goods. I think there is a duty of care to assist the police with their enquiries wherever possible, which I believe we already do:)

  4. That’s Bananasss Wednesday, January 18, 2012

    That’s ridiculous! Keep track of your stuff!

  5. The responsible party is the person that stole it. How can Apple, Ford, Samsung, McDonald, or you name the brand be responsible for theft of their product after purchase? This is perhaps the most assinine, frivolous, crybaby lawsuit i have ever heard. Another reason for lawyers to go away…

  6. Are you KIDDING me? What’s the world coming to when a store is held responsible for theft that occurs OUTSIDE of it, and, in this case, outside the entire mall.

    Should Apple perhaps print on every receipt that “We welcome you as our newest customer and since you indicated that you are a first time owner, we are, by law, obligated to notify you that as an Apple notebook owner, you are at significantly greater risk of harm coming to you, including theft, mugging, home break-in, Starbucks coffee shop, to name a few examples. In certain neighborhoods, it may be best to affix a Windows 7 sticker to lower interest in your gear. And if you live in any of the red areas indicated on the enclosed map, no Kensington lock will help you here and don’t even bother the folks at Lo-Jack. They won’t be found anywhere near there.

    Now, to sign up for iCloud, follow these steps: ……….

  7. Apple got screwed!
    This reads like a case where it was cheaper for Apple to settle rather than pursuing it in Court. And, besides if they would have agreed to just give him replacement products, it would have been at cost to Apple.

  8. Whatever happened to personal responsibility?

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