Monday, January 04, 2010

Apple Refuses To Return Stolen iPhone To Owner

Consumerist reader Alisa Finkelstein recently was robbed on a Brooklyn subway, losing her iPhone in the process as well. While police came on-scene to investigate, she never went down to the station to file a police report, and that's why she's not going to get her iPhone back, apparently.

The thief is going to send the iPhone back for warranty work. As the serial number of the iPhone is still tied to Alisa's email, she was informed of this repair work via email. Voila, you might say, she's going to get her iPhone back. Not so fast.
I'm so excited that I can get my phone back! Until the cops arrive at my house, they tell me that since I didn't file a police report they can't do anything. I didn’t file it because in order to file one, I would have had to go to a precinct downtown (like an hour away) look through books of pictures to try to ID the thief, whose face I only saw from the side for a millisecond. And really, what would a police report do for an iPhone that was stolen on a NYC subway a week before Christmas?(plus i had a final that night) The two officers also told me that even if I had a police report it would still be up to Apple and AT&T to decide how to proceed with the situation.

So I call AT&T... and over the course of 12 hours I speak to a bunch of people who are all very sorry that this is the situation I'm in, but their hands are tied -- they have to honor the warranty and it does not matter that it's clear the phone is mine. They would need the authorities to tell them to do otherwise.

So I head to the police precinct where an officer calls the rep I spoke to last (aka the authorities speaking to Apple). The officer spends about an hour on the phone with Apple telling them that once the current holder of the phone ships the phone back to Apple, they should ship me the replacement. He gets the same answer I got--they will not do anything, they do not care that the person who has the phone currently is using a stolen phone and is not using it with AT&T (AT&T confirmed the phone # I got from the Apple rep is NOT an AT&T number).

It's not even about the phone anymore (I bought a blackberry--$600 is a TAD ridiculous for a new iPhone) its the principle of the situation, basically Apple is siding with someone who will most likely jailbreak the phone as opposed to helping a loyal customer (I've been using Apple products forever--iPods, Macs and iPhones (since the first gen)) who legally bought the phone from Apple and is using it with AT&T.

The whole situation is just illogical to me.
More after the jump.

Now, here's the real rub. While it may seem illogical, it is, but it isn't, Alisa. Much as we might think common-sense would say that Apple should just agree with you, and ship the replacement iPhone to you, let's look at it "logically." Do you think your insurance company would pay for your stolen car without a police report? Nope.

However, things become even more cloudy at this point. According to a comment by Alisa at Gizmodo (admittedly, we don't really know that this is Alisa, but let's assume it is):
Alisa/OP here... at this point I do have a police report( I got it when I went to the precinct and the officer called Apple) . Although Apple NEVER asked for a police report. They never insinuated that i was lying, but told me their hands are tied regardless.

I completely understand that Apple has to follow their policies, but the policies need to be changed. I'm sure this happens to MANY stolen phones, but not all the original owners are lucky enough to find the whereabouts of the phone. I really don't think it would be too much for Apple to flag the serial numbers of items that are proven stolen, via police report or how ever they choose to define proof of theft and adopt a procedure where the item is somehow returned to the owner. In this case there would have to be a way to 'pass on' the ownership if the owner legitimately sells or gift the item to someone else. This type of policy would be pretty awesome considering Apple and AT&T don't offer insurance for the phone.
Assuming this is all true, perhaps an email to sjobs@apple.com might help. He's been known to step in before, and even comment back to emailers.

On the other hand, here's something to think about: with all this publicity, does anyone really think the thief is going to send the iPhone back to Apple now? There are 3rd party repair shops, and he might not want to risk his home address being on the work order.
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