Who made an unauthorized modification to this iPhone?

Did Sudheer Anumula make an unauthorized modification to his new iPhone 8? And what, pray tell, is an unauthorized modification in the first place?

Anumula turned to our advocacy team for answers after installing an update on his new phone. When he restarted the device it stopped working. But the worst was yet to come.

When he asked Apple to repair or replace the phone, a representative accused him of making unauthorized modifications that voided the warranty on the iPhone.

Now Anumula wants to know if we can convince Apple that he didn’t make any unauthorized modifications on the phone — he just wants the company to honor his warranty.

Anumala’s story is a lesson in making sure that you make big-ticket purchases from authorized dealers Otherwise, you may also find yourself with an expensive — but worthless — product.

The phone went dead

Anumula, who lives in India, purchased the iPhone online from a store in India called Croma. The troubles started several months later when he tried to upload an Apple update.

The phone went dead. He sent it to an authorized Apple repair center in India. That company soon returned the phone to him with two pieces of bad news. First, the iPhone could not be “economically repaired.” Additionally, the warranty would not cover a new iPhone.

“I don’t understand this,” he says.

Anumala said that he requested that Apple customer care provide a replacement because his iPhone was still under warranty. He said Apple denied his request.

What about unauthorized modifications?

After Anumala contacted us, our advocates asked him to send her a letter from Apple that confirmed there were unauthorized modifications to his iPhone.

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Anumala requested that Apple provide a written explanation for the reason that his iPhone’s warranty is invalid. Apple declined.

Our team reached out to our executive contact at Apple, and Apple’s resolution team investigated Anumala’s iPhone issues regarding unauthorized modifications and a voided warranty.

Our Apple contact told us that he couldn’t provide any additional information about what Apple’s investigation uncovered. He said the information Anumula previously received from the authorized repair center is Apple’s official position on the matter.

How iPhone customers can protect themselves

Anumala might have prevented this debacle if he were more familiar with Apple’s terms and conditions, specifically related to disclosure of unauthorized modifications.

Legal or not, Apple’s terms say that any unauthorized modifications will void a warranty.

Apple also recommends that you never purchase an iPhone from anywhere other than Apple or an Apple-authorized seller of iPhones.

So how about Anumala? He bought his iPhone on Croma’s website, not at an Apple kiosk inside a Croma store. That, as it turns out, was a big mistake.

Even if Anumala had purchased the iPhone in the United States, the same policies would apply. But those policies are now attracting the attention of federal regulators.

On April 10, the Federal Trade Commission staff warned six major unidentified companies (including some who sell “cellular devices”), that it is illegal to condition warranty coverage on the use of specified parts or service providers.

The companies apparently told consumers that they had to use service providers authorized by the companies to maintain warranty coverage. Sound familiar?

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What recourse does Anumala have for repairing or replacing his iPhone?

Apple suggested Anumala go back to the Croma store where he purchased his iPhone and file a complaint.

Our advocacy team contacted Tata (the parent company of Croma) to ask if Croma is an Apple authorized dealer, and it never responded.

Meanwhile, Anumala’s iPhone doesn’t work. Nobody — not Apple, not Croma and not an authorized repair center — seems interested in repairing or replacing his iPhone. Or in putting anything in writing about what really happened here, for that matter.

Apparently, Anumala is on his own to come up with a solution. Here’s my takeaway: Always use an authorized Apple dealer to buy, update and repair iPhones.

Should Apple have repaired Sudheer Anumula's iPhone?

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Michael Hinkelman

Michael Hinkelman is an award-winning journalist with more than 35 years experience. He has worked for daily newspapers in Atlanta and Philadelphia, most recently as a small-business columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News, before retiring in 2016. In 1993, Hinkelman won a prestigious Gerald Loeb Award for Distinguished Business and Financial Journalism for an investigation into the finances of the Atlanta Public Schools. In 2016, he was a lecturer in media relations at the University of Pennsylvania's Fels Institute of Government. Read more of Michael's stories here.

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