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Apple Continues to Harass Tiny Norwegian Repair Shop

Last year, Henrik Huseby, owner of a small Norwegian smartphone repair shop, took on Apple in court and won—see Jason Koebler’s full story at Motherboard. In short, after Norwegian customs seized a shipment of 63 refurbished screens for the iPhone 6 and 6s, Apple accused Huseby of importing counterfeit parts and tried to get him to pay $3566 and admit wrongdoing. Huseby and his lawyer countered that refurbished screens were never advertised as coming from Apple, even though they were often made with authentic Apple parts, with the Apple logo covered with paint.

If the logo wasn’t covered, it would be a violation of European Union regulations. In fact, one of Apple’s tricks to keeping parts from independent repair shops is to slap its logo on everything, even internal parts. The Norwegian court saw through that trick, saying:

It is not obvious to the court what trademark function justifies Apple’s choice of imprinting the Apple logo on so many internal components… Huseby is largely dependent on being able to import screens with covered up Apple logos to be able to operate in the market as a non-authorized iPhone repair technician.

One of the thorny issues for independent repair shops is that Apple won’t sell them necessary parts, so they often have to go through gray market channels to get them. There’s a blurry line between what’s counterfeit and what’s simply recycled. It’s not as simple as a Chinese factory making a knockoff Rolex—in many cases, the same factory that produces the actual part for Apple also makes the “knockoff.” Plus, refurbishers often make replacement parts from recycled Apple parts (Apple claims to support recycling) and other components. For more on this topic, see “Where Do iPhone Repair Parts Come From?” (17 August 2018).

Despite losing its lawsuit against Huseby, Apple is appealing the decision to a higher Norwegian court. But whether or not it manages to beat up on a lone Norwegian trying to help iPhone users with broken screens, Apple has a serious issue on its hands with repair:

  • At the same time as Apple strives to maintain a monopoly on device repair, it cannot keep up with demand, as many people who have tried to get service lately know.
  • Lots of people live far from an Apple Store, and even many Apple Authorized Service Providers cannot repair certain iPhone problems, forcing users to go without their iPhones for days after sending a broken unit in for repair.
  • Despite Apple’s other efforts to protect the environment, many of its repairs involve throwing away (or hopefully recycling) substantial parts while at least some independent shops reduce waste by repairing broken solder joints or replacing specific failed components.

It just doesn’t make sense—Apple’s policies can’t be making the company significant amounts of money and are resulting in significantly worse customer experiences for both those who want to work with Apple for repair and those who don’t.

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Comments About Apple Continues to Harass Tiny Norwegian Repair Shop

Notable Replies

  1. The article makes valid points about preserving space for Indy repair shops. But Apple’s seemingly heavy-handed trademark defence manoeuvres may be due to what a trademark lawyer once told me after they had registered a logo for me. It was along the lines of “if you don’t use it you’ll loose it”. If I didn’t prosecute apparent infringements, no matter how insignificant, I would not be able to prosecute a serous infringement, because I had not challenged the “small beans” case.

  2. You make a good point about the trademark/copyright issues. I also suspect Apple worries about them getting complaints due to poor quality repairs from non-Apple shops using non-Apple parts. What they should do is just make the repairs cheaper, even if they lose money. I had good luck with repair of my MBPro 2015 logic board and battery. I think it was gone 5 days total.

  3. This all becomes more than academic if you are outside the US or on a remote island. To access an apple repair service I have to essentially fly back to the US and physically take it to a repair centre and then go back and pick it up.
    Apple’s policy of restricting access to repairs generally and restricting access to parts in particular has cost it very dear among people who either work abroad in remote places or live there.
    Short-sighted and counter-productive are yhe words that spring to mind when I am in a good humour, at other times arrogant and stupid seem to be more appropriate.

  4. Do it yourself…the most common repairs for iPhones are screens and batteries. Several vendors offer repair kits, including tools, supplies, and instructions. If you have even a modicum of manual skills it’s easy and quick to replace either one.

  5. In NZ there is no Apple hardware repair. There are a few authorised agents, but they only do software.

    Apple NZ have a semi-secret unlisted office in Auckland. It is off-limits to the public and the media.
    For hardware issues we have to ship everything to Australia because the Apple office in NZ is not available to consumers (it seems to be here just for tax avoidance purposes).

  6. It may not be legally relevant, but it’s important to know that there are no physical Apple Stores in Norway. There are only independent retailers and the online Apple store. Of course there are lots of Macs and iPhones here. So this guy is catering for a market that Apple has decided not to serve.

  7. Lol, sounds like a great lawyer upsell technique…

    ‘Oh you must employ us to chase every single one of these minor infringements, otherwise you surely won’t be able do the proper more serious ones. What, our fees…? That’ll be $1000/hr, with a minimum of 50 hours per case.’

    In all seriousness, it may be true to an extent, but suing such small fry repeatedly, ends-up being being both bad PR for the company as well as needlessly rubbing many customers up the wrong way bulding up resentment, leading them to be less likely to want to buy your products going forward** – i.e. it achieves nothing of value for Apple in the long run.

    (** Of course given there are only two players in the marketplace, Apple and Androids (of various brands), you could argue Apple customers are caught somewhat between a rock and a hard place, haha!)

  8. But that’s a separate point. Sure, it’d be great if people can do these things themselves, though many can’t or won’t for a variety of reasons.

    The issue here is about how Apple handle these third-party repairers and the parts they use: badly IMO.

    It’s bad PR, and arguably it’s bad for customers (due to location limitations, or delayed long timeframes for ‘official’ fixes, or simply due to Apple refusing to fix items they personally define as ‘vintage’ despite the customer wanting to carry-on using said product and third-parties having tools/parts to fix them, that Apple attempts to block parts to).

    The only people that “win” here, are the lawyers.

    Apple’s excuse, of course, is that they are blocking potentially bad parts and potentially bad unauthorised fixes from their customers, so as to avoid customers being upset if things go wrong in future with said fix. And then the potential for these customers to arrive at Apple’s door afterwards, with Apple having to pick up the pieces.

    About as remotely likely an argument you could ever find, given these repairers business live or die on them being able to repair things properly (there are these things called online reviews, that have killed many a shoddy business; it’s not up to Apple to police everything).

  9. Conversely, come to London (UK), where we have not enough stores to cover the population either, with times available for booking Genius appointments often running into weeks.**

    It’s okay for US coastal dwellers with countless Apple stores typically within distance, but for the rest of the world, we aren’t exactly inundated with Apple repair options. Hence why third-party ones exist in the first place.

    I tell you what Apple, come back and sue everyone when you actually have enough authorised repairers out there in the first place across the world.

    Instead of building these deluxe ‘palaces of the people’ type stores, why not spend the money on availing yourselves of more venues, instead.

    ** There’re plenty of good upmarket shopping areas with large empty spaces, a few obvious ones that come to mind:

    • Brompton Rd (Knightsbridge, next to Harrods): whole row of shops, in one of the most affluent areas.
    • Kensington High St: several shops available for a mid-size store, in an affluent area.
    • The Kings Rd (Chelsea): several shopfronts available for a mid-size store, in a v. affluent area.
    • Oxford St (busiest shopping st. in Europe) nearby’s Regents St/Cov.Gdn are overrun w/ v.high footfall.
  10. I agree with most of what you say, except that it is not a separate point, it’s an allied point and very relevant to, “How do I get my iPhone fixed.”

    I live in a small town, there are no authorized Apple repair shops…nearest one is 120 miles away. The battery in my iPhone was dying and bulging the case open as it expanded. I went on-line to see what my options were and watched a detailed YouTube video of the repair process. That allayed most all fears, so I ordered a repair kit.

    I’ve never been into an iPhone in my life, I disassembled it, took the screen out, pulled the battery out, installed the new one, replaced the screen and hooked up several connectors, and reassembled the case. It took all of 30 min. first time. Phone fired right up like new and that was two years ago.

    Sure, I voided the warranty, but it was an older iPhone 6 and it would have taken a full day of driving back and forth, wasting 35 gallons of gasoline, hunting around to find the location of the authorized repair shops in the city, and being without my phone for several days, as opposed to 30 minutes. I figured I honestly had nothing to loose other than the $30 investment for the repair kit. If I had screwed up I was prepared to buy a newer model.

    My advice is don’t give in, stand up, be a bit independent, educate yourself, and if you feel comfortable enough fiddling with a bit of hardware, go for it. It’s not rocket science.

  11. Sure it’s great that you managed it fine yourself. But again, the point of the article isn’t about fixing a phone yourself, but rather how Apple is trying to stop parts availability for either a third-party repairer (or you!) to be able to do so in the first place. If they block parts being available to buy online, you’d be stuffed too.

    I had this with an old Apple MBP with bulging battery issue. Apple and their official non-Apple repairers refused to touch it as just turned ‘vintage’ or whatever (it was only ~5 years old!), and third-parties said they couldn’t order the battery from Apple either, so wouldn’t fix it.

    Where does that leave me as a customer? I either attempt to do a DIY, or sell the machine as scrap parts. So my only course of action was to take a punt on a third-party grey market battery off Ebay actually working. If Apple had their own way, they would’ve blocked this option as well, leaving me with a machine that was unusable all for the sake of a battery.

    The point is, I should have had the option to have a repair shop do the fix for me. It’s okay for us mildly techie or have-a-go norms, but say it was a grandma (to use a cliché) who had no one able to help them do a DIY and simply couldn’t undertake a fix themselves, then they’d be left out in the cold with no options.

    That’s simply not good enough, and Apple’s policy of shooting the third-party here isn’t right when they refuse to offer parts or facilities themselves either.

  12. Sorry but you don’t understand the law about such. At least in the US.

    Now you don’t have to sue but you’d better be prepared to send out a letter, maybe registered to anyone you discover might be infringing telling them they must make sure their use of whatever they are doing does not create confusion about who is who. Sending the letters and keeping records of such sendings covers 99% of the small cases. But if you don’t send the letters (in the US) you are allowing the legal system to infer that your trademark doesn’t mean much to you which means it really isn’t a trademark.

  13. If Apple’s (lawyers) concern is the semi reasonable one over protecting trademarks then all they need to do is to give a license to independent repair shops for a nominal fee e.g. $1.

    As all us sane right thinking people here agree the coverage of official repair agents is totally inadequate in many or indeed most places even London.

    Note to @jimthing
    There has been an article saying Apple are due to finally open an official Apple Store near to Harrods. I have personally said they should to this for years - ever since they opened the Regent Street store in fact. See - https://www.rli.uk.com/news/apple-to-open-retail-store-in-londons-knightsbridge-estate/

    Like @jimthing there are frequently occasions when I could not find a single appointment slot for a genius at any Apple Store inside the entire M25. (Think of this as equivalent to the entire state of New York, not merely the city of New York.)

    @jimthing You forgot Tottenham Court Road. :slight_smile:

  14. Notice the word sued. Looks like they did sue, as seemingly a letter wasn’t sufficient after all.

    Hence my point about such overkill being bad PR, and rubbing customers the wrong way who cannot get devices fixed through legitimate Apple support channels in certain worldwide regions, either at all, or certainly without jumping through near impossible hoops in order to do so.

  15. Ah, so that’s why those boards are up outside Knightsbridge whenever I go past, haha! The area is under renovation for some time now, so makes sense. Thanks for the info.

    And yes, along with being more a ‘home furniture zone’ (Heals, Habitat, et al.), Tottenham Court Road seems to be returning to it’s ‘tech street’ legacy doesn’t it, partially at least, so perhaps a store there may be quite apt. I’ll take anywhere they feel one would work, at this stage, lol! :wink:

  16. This is a sad situation, but one that might not necessarily be Apple’s fault. In remote areas in the US, there are independent companies that can be certified to make Apple repairs. These companies have to agree to maintain high standards and provide required levels of service. Best Buy is one I can think of, and I know they license other companies to resellers and services as well:

    https://www.bestbuy.com/site/services/apple-service-repair/pcmcat1554741516170.c?id=pcmcat1554741516170

    I checked Apple’s website, and in countries, including Norway, people who have Apple Care and no access to an authorized repair center will have a box sent to them to ship items to one. I’ll bet these repair centers fix items not under warranty as well for a fee. Though I can’t read the Norwegian on the page for repair, there are clearly authorized options available:

    https://support.apple.com/no-no/contact

    There are repair options available across the globe for Apple devices.

  17. Personally, I gave up on opening iPhones several generations ago. The possible cost was just too high given the difficulty of the repair.

  18. There are a lot of shops that refuse to work with Apple because Apple has some truly offensive repair policies. For instance, one Apple Authorized Repair Provider told me that Apple would pay only $14 for an iPhone repair, even though it was going to take an experience tech (who would earn at least $25 per hour) at least 30 minutes. There’s no way for a small business to stay afloat in such a situation. Maybe that’s improved in the past few years, but it was certainly true a while back.

    I’ve been to meetings of independent Apple resellers, who all do repair as well, and there are tons of complaints about what it’s like to be an AASP.

    It’s also not clear to me that being Apple=-authorized means much of anything in terms of the quality of the service. I’ve certainly heard horror stories about Best Buy, for instance, and glowing reports from independent repair shops. All that’s anecdotal, of course, but it’s certainly not the case that independent shops are necessarily worse.

  19. Different strokes for different folks, Adam. I got the battery, tools, and instructions for $30. If you are good at precisely following instructions it’s a relatively easy fix. And the display would be even easier than the battery since you have to take it out before you can get to the battery.

    If I had a local repair store I likely would have spent the $80 and been done with it. But I’m remote enough that that would have been a messy and expensive option. If I was stuck in Norway or New Zealand like some have posted here I would think seriously of doing it myself.

  20. It’s not the cost of the parts that bothers me, it’s the cost of messing up and breaking a $1100 iPhone. :slight_smile:

    I’ll be replacing a loud fan in my MacBook Air soon since that seems within my skill set and it’s an old machine. And Tristan and I are looking forward to trying to bake the GPU card of an old iMac that’s not working—that will be hard but there’s no real liability if we fail or make it worse. But with iPhones, if I have an official option (which I do, here in the US), I’ll take it.

  21. All this makes me think the European’s are on to something with the proposed right to repair law. How will Apple be able to preserve their repair monopoly when this is enacted one wonders…

  22. This issue is not getting better.

    There’s no Apple Stores in Ireland either.

    There’s Authorized Service Centers, other companies who use Apple parts etc. However half the time, they take a quick look and suggest within a minute or two “It’s gone, get a new one, Apple offer upgrades if you trade it in” and go back to whatever job makes economic sense to them.

    I’ve often left kit until my next trip stateside, bring it into the store in Manhattan and go about my day, collecting it at the end of day.

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