This summer, Linda happened to drop her Iphone XS Max on the hill. The screen was smashed, but thanks to her insurance policy with Telia, she received a factory-refurbished replacement phone – also an Iphone XS Max – from the operator. The factory-refurbished unit has been “reused in the service flow in line with Telia’s sustainability goals.”
The phone arrives in a plastic bag after just over a week, but Linda immediately thinks it is behaving strangely. She notes that the phone has difficulty with wifi and bluetooth connections and even when she tries to share internet.
But 2020 is a special year and not a year when you want to be without a mobile phone for long periods. Linda decides to keep the phone because it worked “99 percent of the time”, as she describes in an email to us.
Died two months later
Two months later, Linda will charge her Iphone XS Max. Suddenly a warning message appears stating that water has entered the phone. She quickly pulls out the charging socket but does not notice any moisture. The phone then sporadically turns on and off to finally die a day later.
Iphone XS Max is enclosure classified according to ip68, which means that the phone is tested to survive in two meters deep water for up to 30 minutes without being damaged. But the tests are performed in laboratory environments and are in fact no guarantee whatsoever that a telephone cannot absorb – and be damaged by – water and other liquids.
In addition, Linda had been extra careful.
– After I lost my original phone, I decided to change my user habits, not to take it with me everywhere to avoid placing it badly so that it goes downhill. I used my exchange unit very carefully, more carefully than I have ever used a telephone, Linda writes.
She sent her unusable Iphone XS Max to Telia’s service workshop, Telia Care & Repair. A few days later, she received feedback and was faced with the following choices:
- Recycle – cost SEK 0.
- Returned in existing condition – 299 kronor.
- Repair (full replacement at cost – moisture-damaged unit) – SEK 7,790.
Linda, convinced that the exchange phone had been in trouble since the beginning, tried to protest. But at Telia’s service workshop, they referred to Apple’s directive regarding performance and appearance and that it was functionally tested before it was sent to her. She decided to swallow the lemon and take the deductible of SEK 750 for a full exchange.
Not an insurance case
But with Telia’s insurance partner Willis, she encounters problems because the moisture damage is not due to an accident. Linda can not move forward in the case, and Telia and Willis start referring to each other instead of taking it. No one in the Telia store can help her either. There, she instead receives explanations that an IP classification does not imply immunity to moisture damage, something she already has full control of. For some reason, she is asked to contact Apple Support, where the only message is that Telia is responsible for the case because they sent her the phone.
Linda feels both stupid and helpless. By phone, she is advised by a person in the Telia customer service to stand up in the store to get proper help to handle the matter. But in no way does she manage to move on to either get an explanation of how the moisture damage may have occurred or help with complaints.
For just over two months, the phone remains with Telia Care & Repair. In a further dialogue with the workshop, she asks for photo documentation of the moisture damage. These, as you can see below, show how rust has formed in several widely separated places in the inside of the phone.
In fact, they are very reminiscent of the injuries we described a similar case in 2019. We get to see the many messages that have passed between Linda and the workshop, where the latter party states that the phone is damaged by moisture and unusable, but does not want to speculate on how the extensive damage may have occurred. And how fast is it really possible for a phone to rust? Nor does she get an answer to that. Apple’s policy requires a full replacement that is not covered by the warranty, the answer remains.
Cold hand from Telia
In her search for answers, Linda finds our article and decides to contact us. When we forward Linda’s story to Telia, the operator quickly initiates an investigation of the case. One week later you return with the following message:
– When a customer receives an exchange unit, the warranty / right of complaint still applies from the date when the original telephone was acquired. In this case, it was bought by the customer in September 2018 – so the warranty expired in September 2019.
Telia also writes:
– Repairs are covered by the Consumer Services Act for private individuals with the rights and obligations it entails for both parties. The repair will be carried out at the agreed price to the extent that it is feasible. Changes that entail increased costs will be informed in advance and require approval before we begin the repair.
An answer that does not give us much, given that fluid damage is not covered by warranty or warranty. Telia also writes that the workshop immediately saw clear signs that the phone is damaged by moisture and has begun to rust, but that “it is impossible to assess how the damage occurred more than that the phone has been exposed to moisture.”
All Telia workshops are authorized by Apple, we learn, and use only original parts for repairs. Telia further announces that all replacement devices sent to their customers have been function tested by Apple.
– Telia always uses the workshop’s statement as a basis for decisions on measures and proposals to the customer, it is stated in the answer to us, whereupon we ask follow-up questions with reference to the burden of proof.
The burden of proof is regulated in the Consumer Purchase Act, which literally states the following:
§ 20 a An error which appears within six months after the goods were delivered shall be deemed to have existed at the time of delivery, unless otherwise shown or this is incompatible with the nature of the goods or defects.
Telia and the workshop have landed in the assessment that “the damage is of such a nature that it could not possibly have been caused by anyone other than the customer himself”, but can thus not give us a clue as to how the extensive rust damage could have occurred over virtually the entire phone internal measurement.
The sudden turn
Now it looks dark. Telia appears to be rock-solid in her case, while Linda cannot for the life of her imagine that she caused the enormous damage inside her phone, which she handled so carefully and had such a short time. The only way forward seems to be via the General Complaints Board, ARN, where Linda according to several previous decisions learn to have a hard time winning. Moisture damage cases are almost always decided in favor of the seller.
A few days of silence follow, before Telia surprisingly hears from him and announces that it may turn completely in Linda’s case. Literally, the following message is to be read in the email to us:
– Telia has now decided to update its policy on complaints with moisture-damaged iPhones as of December 10 due to a change in Apple’s policy as of December 8. This means that we will accept this type of complaint concerning moisture-damaged Iphones as long as no other error is detected that can explain why the device has been damaged by moisture.
– The customer receives an exchange unit from us. This means that the customer in this case can of course get a new assessment if she contacts our service workshop Telia Care and Repair.
Will you go out with this information on your support pages?
– We will not go out with any general information on our websites, we do not in such cases. The information goes to our service workshops when it comes to changed routines from the manufacturer.
Talk about turning around! Telia has repeatedly admitted that it does not know how the moisture damage occurred in Linda’s phone, so a second assessment should be all that is required for her to get a new Iphone. And quite rightly – just a few days later, she receives a message that she has a new phone to pick up at the Telia store. “The unit will be replaced under an approved Telia complaint”, the decision was made.
We ask Telia’s press service if they can develop around the policy change as it has the potential to be absolutely decisive for future moisture damage complaints. But they do not seem to be particularly keen on that. The last message we receive from the operator is:
– We follow the guidelines that the manufacturers have, and update them when they update them, as in this case. It is always sad to hear about a customer who is not satisfied and we do our utmost to make all customers feel satisfied with having chosen Telia. It is good that IDG raises such issues.
Additional operator confirms
Have we just had an incredible timing in this case, or how come Apple is alleged to have changed its complaint policy for moisture damage right now? And what does it say literally in it? M3 has sought Apple to clarify the policy issue, but has not received any answers from the company’s Swedish press department. We can also not find any recent changes in the text on Apple’s page for moisture damage.
We also contact the Swedish operators Telenor, Tre and Tele2 to see if they have been reached by information about a policy change. There is the mixed message. One answers no and one does not want to comment on policies one has with manufacturers and suppliers. The third initially gives a negative message, but will double check with another supplier.
After just over a week, the last operator returns with a message: It is stated that it available new rules regarding moisture damage, and they are said to be specified in Apple’s Global Service Exchange program, which includes guidelines for repairs. You are not more specific than that in your message, but refer to Apple, which has not returned to us.
Moisture damage is among the worst things a consumer can experience, as they are rarely covered by warranty or insurance. The exception is if there is no doubt that the moisture damage was not caused by the user. The fact that manufacturers market their mobile phones with an enclosure rating that indicates moisture and dirt resistance is thus not relevant in this context.
At the end of November Apple was forced to pay a fine of 10 million euros in Italy for having marketed the Iphone as water-resistant, but without backing up the claim with clear boundaries for its scope, and without including water damage in its complaint policy. The ruling became a world first and may well have consequences for how manufacturers may use IP classification in marketing in the future.
Much about the alleged policy change is shrouded in obscurity. The only thing we know for sure is that Linda was entitled to a new replacement Iphone, because the workshop did not find any other fault that indicated that she herself caused the extensive moisture damage to her replacement unit due to negligence.
Linda has requested to remain anonymous and is actually called something else. M3 has searched for Apple without success.