Apple's Tim Cook says 'I'm sorry' to Chinese customers

A member of staff talks to customers at an Apple store in China Apple has 11 stores in Greater China, including Hong Kong

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Apple boss Tim Cook has apologised to Chinese consumers after state media accused the firm of arrogance, greed and of "throwing its weight around".

A two-week long Chinese media campaign had focused on Apple's repair policies.

A statement on Apple's China website said "misunderstandings" may have led to the perception "Apple's attitude was arrogant" towards Chinese customers.

Mr Cook promised to improve the repair policy on the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S, and to improve warranty information.

"We are aware that a lack of communications... led to the perception Apple's attitude was arrogant and that we do not care and attach importance to consumer feedback," Mr Cook wrote. "We express our sincere apologies for any concerns or misunderstandings this gave consumers."

Apple said it would enhance communication with Chinese consumers and strengthen oversight of authorised resellers.

Earlier this year, Mr Cook said he expected China to replace North America as Apple's largest source of revenue.

China is currently Apple's second-largest market, with more than 17,000 outlets selling its products.

The company says it has eight stores in mainland China, with another three in Greater China, which includes Hong Kong.

'Incomparable arrogance'

State broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) first criticised Apple on 15 March on a show about consumer rights and safety.

The program accused Apple of failing to offer new replacement iPhones if major repairs are needed during a one-year warranty.

Start Quote

Here we have the Western person's sense of superiority making mischief”

End Quote People's Daily

Following on from that, the state's flagship newspaper, People's Daily, portrayed Apple as the latest Western company to exploit Chinese citizens.

Last week the paper ran an editorial headlined: "Strike down Apple's incomparable arrogance".

"Here we have the Western person's sense of superiority making mischief,'' the paper wrote. "If there's no risk in offending the Chinese consumer, and it also makes for lower overheads, then why not?''

However, some observers in China called it hypocrisy that the paper often does not feature incidents where Chinese companies have been named as part of food safety scares, environmental violations or corruption scandals.

Apple will now offer full replacements of iPhone 4 and 4S models, and a one-year warranty will start from the date of replacement.

It will also allow customers to offer feedback directly, Mr Cook said.

Apple is not the first foreign company to come under pressure from Chinese media.

Last year, CCTV featured McDonald's and Carrefour for food safety violations. The companies later apologised.

Most recently, the parent company behind KFC, Yum, apologised after reports that chicken from some of its suppliers had excess amounts of hormones and drugs.

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