In an inspiring tale, one Seattle blogger recently defeated America's most valuable tech company in court with little more than wit and determination. A few years ago, Apple (like many other system makers) shipped notebooks with defective Nvidia graphics processors. MacBook Pros with a GeForce 8600M GT were among the affected units, and Apple promised to repair busted machines free of charge for up to four years.
Seattle Rex, the aforementioned blogger, tried taking advantage of the free repair when his $4,000 MacBook Pro failed, but Apple refused service because the notebook wouldn't boot, so it couldn't confirm Nvidia's GPU was to blame (even though this is a symptom of the faulty chip in question). Annoyed, Rex filed a complaint with the BBB, but Apple lied about running diagnostics on the system to have the case closed.
After receiving a cold shoulder from Apple's Executive Customer Service, Rex threatened to sue. It's fairly uncommon for large companies to appear in small claims court because the stakes simply aren't high enough. It costs more in legal representation than the damages involved, so most such cases are settled outside court. Of course, when you have $100 billion under your mattress, you can afford to defy logic a little.
And so Apple did. The company sent not one lawyer to manhandle Rex, but two, and they were in direct contact with a legal team via cell phone. Despite being heavily outgunned, Rex tried solving the dispute in private mediation, but that didn't pan out so the case went before a judge. From there, Rex's account of the trial depicts Apple as a merciless scoundrel hellbent on crushing the little guy out of spite, no matter the cost.
Fortunately for Rex, money can't buy the truth. At best, it can be distorted, but apparently Apple's muscle wasn't very good at that. In their opening statement, the lawyers tried having the case dismissed because Rex's CPU runs at 2.6GHz instead of 2.4 or 2.5GHz, suggesting his system doesn't qualify for free repair. However, he bought the machine with that configuration and it has nothing to do with Nvidia's GPU anyway.
"You see, when I ordered my MacBook Pro, I paid about $300 extra for them to up-clock the chip from 2.5Ghz to 2.6Ghz. Yes, it was a classic Apple ripoff, and yes, I was dumb to order it, but I did it, mea culpa. I had absolutely no idea that it would be used against me in a court of law...Perhaps, despite everything, I am still a bit naive, because not even I expected Apple to just…lie. At least not in such a silly manner," he wrote.
After explaining everything, Rex forced Apple to admit his notebook is, in fact, warrantied. "So, there we were. Not more than two minutes into the trial, and Apple conceded to trying to hoodwink the judge," he said. "This is more or less the way the rest of the trial played out. I made a point, Apple rebutted it with something completely off-the-wall and irrelevant, and I explained to the judge why Apple's rebuttal was nonsense."
Impressed with Rex's knowledge, the judge deemed him an "expert witness." He was awarded with enough cash to replace is 17-inch notebook, plus court costs, costs of service and so on. Although he's happy with the outcome, Rex is concerned Apple won't pony up. The kicker, he reckons, is that Apple wouldn't even have had to pay for repairing his notebook. Nvidia foots the bill, so Apple is being a jerk for no reason.
"In addition, instead of paying nothing for the repair, they paid a legal team to oversee the case, and, oh yeah…you guys, the shareholders, are buying me a new computer too. Thanks. As far as I can tell, Apple spent all of this time and money, solely to be a bully. Was that really money well-spent? I mean, you can almost excuse the holy wars against Adobe, Samsung, Android, and the prototype guys…but a local blogger?"
Rex's experience is far from unique, it seems. Since publishing his article, he's received "scores" of emails from people who've also been denied free repairs under the same pretense (their systems aren't eligible because they doesn't boot -- but they don't boot because of the flawed component). He is looking into filing a class-action suit against Apple for fraud, misrepresentation and so on, but there are no details on that yet.