Apple Ordered to Improve its Pricing System
Few of us know everything there is to know about our smart phones. One thing we do know is how much they cost. In fact, it is our right to know, and it is a violation of consumer protection laws if a company does not display pricing properly on its devices. Apple Inc. ("Apple") recently learned this after state investigators found it in violation of these laws.
According to the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, all Apple stores in the state have been ordered to place 4-1/2 inch by 3-1/2 inch “pricing wedges” on each table where they sell iPhones, iPads, MacBooks, Apple Watches and other devices. The Division of Consumer Affair's statement was issued on the same day the company announced the $999 iPhone X along with other new models.
The state investigation took issue with Apple’s existing on-screen digital pricing system. Allegedly, the “pricing app” was featured no more prominently on device home screens than any other app. Even then, the information would disappear five seconds after the device was activated from sleep mode. If the device was already active, the price could not be seen at all. The problem extended to other devices as well. Both laptops and desktops displayed pricing on their wallpaper, which was usually obscured by screensavers or applications.
The specific law being enforced is New Jersey’s Merchandise Pricing Statute. Its intent is to ensure that consumers do not have to ask a sales employee for the price of an item. Consumers should be able to determine this on their own from a plainly marked stamp, label or sign located on or near the merchandise. Incidentally, all the stores were also found to be in violation of the state’s Refund Policy Disclosure Act. Due to the stores' use of mobile hand-held devices, refund policies normally featured on signs on each cash register or in a place clearly visible from the cash register, were not visible to consumers. Now, the stores must attach these signs to the merchandise itself or at a store's public entrances.
Apple’s existing, digital system will remain. The new signage will simply supplement that system. With phones now selling for prices in the thousand-dollar range, it is more important than ever that consumers can make educated decisions regarding the purchase of their device. Consumer protection laws exist for this very reason, among others. If you have any questions or have had trouble with any consumer protection problem, please call this office for a consultation.
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