A few weeks ago, a demand draft of ₹ 43,500 arrived at Aaditya Chandel’s doorstep. For him, the money had been due for years, resulting from an old iPhone 6 purchase, a few trips to Apple service centres, legal notices, and a five-year-long consumer court case that he recently won against the tech giant.
Earlier this year, the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, Chennai, ordered that Apple pay compensation to Chandel, an IIT Madras researcher, amounting to the cost of his faulty iPhone, money that he spent on repairs, and to compensate for the loss of time and peace.
It all began in October 2016 when Chandel, who was then a second-year PhD scholar, bought an iPhone 6 for ₹28,240 after saving up for months. Little did he anticipate the troubles that lay ahead. “All was well for a month. But after that, my phone began to freeze frequently. I couldn’t remove the battery, so every time this happened, I went to the nearby service centre in Chennai,” he recalls. Chandel says that this was frustrating, given that the issue took away a lot of his research hours. “Also, it was a daunting challenge to talk to my parents, who lived in Kanpur,” he says. He said that he even wrote to Apple and that too didn’t help his cause.
What followed was a harrowing sequence of events, with the phone repeatedly landing at the service centre for extended periods, often leaving Chandel phoneless for stretches of twenty to thirty days. “To compound the situation, the service centre rarely provided a backup phone,” he remarks, reflecting on the difficult period from October 2016 to January 2018. During that time, the company took back his phone and gave him a new one of the same model, thrice. Chandel claims that they looked refurbished and that all of them froze abruptly. Thus, his frequent trips to the service centre continued.
Faced with mounting challenges, Chandel decided to file a complaint at the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum in Chennai, taking on Apple India, Apple Inc, and an iPhone service centre. “It seemed like the only option I had,” Chandel explains. The ensuing hearings endured for five years, hampered by pandemic-related delays and lockdowns. The judgment was pronounced in March 2023 and its copy was published a week ago, in July. Throughout this period, Chandel represented himself without hiring a lawyer. “I researched it myself, and once in a while, a photostat shop owner in the court’s premises helped me out with the documents. It isn’t that difficult after all. It is in fact, your right,” he recalls.
Luckily for him, it was around that time that Apple came out with a public apology for slowing down certain models, including iPhone 6. “That was one of the documents that I submitted in the court and luckily, it all came together in my favour,” says Chandel. “The entire process was quite time-consuming, but I was in Chennai throughout and was able to make it to the court for all hearings. Also, now that I won this case, I’ve started helping out my friends here in IITM to file redressal complaints in consumer courts (against faulty brands). Some of them have received compensation too,” he says.
After his failed iPhone 6, Chandel switched to using an Android phone, which worked seamlessly for years. But funnily enough, in early 2023, a friend gifted him an iPhone 14 that they bought from France. “It’s been a few months now, and the iPhone works fine. Not all of them are bad,” he says, with a laugh. The Hindu BusinessLine