China’s top consumer watchdog group has called for Apple(s AAPL) to start calling the iPad a computer. Why? Because if Apple’s tablet is reclassified, it will mean the device will have to come with a standard two-year warranty like all other computers sold in the country. Currently, the iPad comes with a one-year warranty, the same policy Apple has in almost all other regions.
China.org.cn has the China Consumers Association’s statement:
In a statement posted on the CCA’s website, Apple Inc. was told to equalize the warranty periods in China compared with other countries. Buyers of iPads, after the company admitted the device is classifiable as a portable computer, are entitled to two-year after-sale service packages for its key components, said the statement.
The major exceptions to Apple’s standard one-year warranty have been established recently: after a couple years of threats and fines, Italy’s consumer protection agency got Apple to start offering two-year warranties for free. The two-year period is actually the law of the land in the European Union, but not all states have taken enforcement as seriously as Italy.
Calls for stronger consumer protection directed at Apple have been a theme in the Chinese state-run media lately. But put in context of the last week, the warranty demand appears to be yet another way for the Chinese government to get under Apple’s skin.
The past week has seen media outlets controlled by the Communist government attack Apple’s device repair and refurbishment policy and then subsequently the company’s response to the criticism.
Even before the wave of media criticism began last week, Apple’s been fighting a lot of different battles in China: the trademark and copyright laws in the country have kept Apple’s lawyers busy, while the working conditions in its suppliers’ Chinese factories have kept it on the defense, both in China and abroad. And meanwhile, the company is trying to make lifelong customers out of the country’s wealthier citizens.
How Apple’s products and brand are portrayed in China — and especially in the media — is incredibly important to Apple’s future: CEO Tim Cook says the company is on track to have China as its No. 1 market one day.