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Editor: Myanna Dellinger
University of South Dakota School of Law

Monday, April 11, 2011

Law Prof Smacks Down Apple for Faulty iPad Cover

As the picture below illsturates, Apple is very proud of the new smart cover for the iPad 2.  It's held on by magnets.  Magnets!  And look!  It doubles as a carpal-tunnel reducing stand.

Perhaps the new cover isn't quite so smart as it at first appears.  Ohio State University Moritz College of Law Professor Emeritus Douglas Whaley reports on his blog about how he went mano a corpo with Apple over the cover. and came out smelling as sweet as a new tablet.  Here's the story, as told by Professor Whaley:

[T]he Apple people are very proud of the new cover for iPad 2. They shouldn't be. First of all, it only covers the front of the iPad which has a glass facing. Secondly, it's held on by magnets at one end. Seven days after I got the new iPad, it slipped from my car seat in the garage, stripping its magnet cover as it fell to the floor, creating a crack on the glass. Seven days.

When Professor Whaley tried to return the iPad, the Apple folks told him that the warranty did not cover accidental damage.  Big mistake, Apple.  Big mistake.  You messed with the wrong guy!  Professor Whaley wrote to Apple, told his story, and then issued the following warning:

Your cover is in violation of the implied warranty of merchantability, section 2-214 of the Uniform Commercial Code, a statute in effect in all jurisdictions in this country except Louisiana. My Small Claims action (the court has jurisdiction up to $2000) will be filed with that as the theory. 

But Professor Whaley is both good cop and bad cop, so he offered a reasonable settlement:

I don't want to sue. I want an iPad 2 (which I otherwise love) that isn't scratched with cracking glass within two weeks of purchase. If you will replace the iPad 2 and refund the money for my cover and I'll be a happy man. 

Please let me hear from you about this by next Wednesday, April 13, 2011.

He then called Apple's customer support and had the following conversation with a supervisor who again tried to rely on the express warranty limitations:

I told him that was probably right, but didn't get rid of the implied warranty under the Uniform Commercial Code, and a cover that won't protect its product won't do. He asked if I sued a lot. Never before, I replied, but a Small Claims Action is easy and we'll let the court decide if a cover that detaches this easily is merchantable. . . . Eventually he returned to the phone and, very efficiently, told me that since I'd always been a good Apple customer they'd decided to make an exception in my case, and would replace my iPad2 at the Apple Store. I told him I was very grateful, he gave me the case number, and the next day I had a new iPad2 (my third). Indeed, at the store it was determined I'd originally been overcharged at the original purchase by $138, for which the store gave me a gift card—I immediately used it to buy insurance on the new iPad2! With Apple's permission, I'm returning Apple's original cover; I'll buy a sturdier one elsewhere.

And so we learn a useful lesson about how to use the law to protect yourself as a consumer without spending a dime on attorneys' fees.  But Professor Whaley leaves us with one final lesson:

I also should note that I do think the Apple cover is badly designed and in breach of the warranty mentioned. It would be unethical to threaten something in which you do not have a good faith belief. 

Amen to that. In addition, keep in mind that the warranty likely does not cover using your new iPad to chop salsa, although for fans of Stephen Colbert, that might now count as an intended use.


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I had a similar problem with my iPad as well, fortunately I was insured so my insurance paid for that.

Posted by: elaz | Apr 15, 2011 5:43:40 AM

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