Smoking Hazardous to Apple Equipment, Or, at Least, Warranty

Last Updated Nov 22, 2009 9:03 PM EST

According to a report in The Consumerist, Apple is telling some customers that smoking near a product covered under the AppleCare program voids the warranty. However, try to find that limitation in the policy wording. It doesn't seem to be in there.

Two different readers of Consumerist reported that Apple had said that second hand smoke traces in the returned equipment voided the warranty because it exposed workers to secondhand smoke, and that nicotine was on OSHA's list of hazardous substances. But then, it's not the only thing on the list, as one of the readers noted:

OSHA also lists calcium carbonate (found in calcium tablets), isopropyl alcohol (used to clean wounds), chlorine (used in swimming pools), hydrogen peroxide (also used to clean wounds), sucrose (a sugar), talc (as in powder), etc... as hazardous substances.
That's right, keep that MacBook or iPhone away from your swimming pool or morning cup of coffee. The other customer claimed that there was nothing in the AppleCare documentation listing a smoking environment as a warranty-killer.

So I looked at the AppleCare for North America document. Skimming through it, and then following up with another reading and doing a text search through it, I found no term or condition that allowed Apple to refuse service to equipment because of secondhand smoke. In fact, there was no mention of smoke, secondhand or otherwise, or of biohazards, for that matter. The only things that seem to come even close is that damage caused by "extreme environment (including extreme temperature or humidity), extreme physical or electrical stress or interference" or that any damage "caused by accident, abuse, neglect, misuse (including faulty installation, repair, or maintenance by anyone other than Apple or an Apple Authorized Service Provider)" would not be covered There are no mentions of conditions that would allow Apple personnel to refuse service at all.

Apparently, people in the office of Steve Jobs also said that the company would not undertake to repair the products. Since repair versus replacement is under Apple's choice, maybe the company should read the policy again and recognize that they, under their own stated terms and conditions, probably owe the customer replacement product.

Image via stock.xchng user celeborn_p, site standard license.

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    Erik Sherman is a widely published writer and editor who also does select ghosting and corporate work. The views expressed in this column belong to Sherman and do not represent the views of CBS Interactive. Follow him on Twitter at @ErikSherman or on Facebook.