Apple, Amazon Team Up To 'Enhance Customer Experience' By Limiting Customers' Options

from the *enhanced-customer-experience-may-require-bending-over dept

The "right of first sale" still exists. Not that Apple's happy about it. Apple's no fan of right-to-repair laws either, preferring to keep its revenue streams nice and deep by forcing customers to get their repairs only from Apple-approved vendors, no matter what the law actually says.

So, yeah, you still have the right to resell your Apple products. You're just not going to do it in the largest marketplace in the United States. This CNBC article delivers the bad news like it's good news.

In a new agreement between tech giants Amazon and Apple, shoppers will soon see a selection of the latest Apple products on, Amazon told CNBC in statement.

The agreement means the latest Apple products like the iPhone XR, XS and XS Max will be available on Amazon.

Both companies issued statements about improving customer experiences, but nothing about this sounds like a better deal for consumers. It's a paywalled garden guarded by Apple and Amazon that will keep all but a select few resellers from participating. Being an Apple reseller/repairer is pay-to-play.

First, Apple has to be convinced you'll do more for it than it will do for you. Then you have to pay for the privilege of being allowed to exercise your first sale rights.

Independent shops pay Apple a fee in return for "authorized" status, which gets them exclusive access to Apple training and guidebooks and the ability to buy parts directly from Apple. But authorized repair shops are only "authorized" to do a select few repairs; if a customer comes in with other easily fixable problems, the repair shop must ship the phone to Apple.

This "improvement" of "customer experience" means more old Apple products will be headed for landfills than other people's homes. Jason Koebler of Motherboard interviewed John Bumstead -- a reseller who buys old MacBooks from recyclers and, until recently, sold the refurbs on Amazon. Bumstead was just informed he was no longer welcome at Amazon, thanks to the new deal with Apple.

Bumstead had a good thing going -- something that worked for him and the environment. But Amazon's refurb program -- as modified by Apple -- only wants to deal with people who have the capability to feed a bunch of money to Apple before reselling used devices.

Amazon currently has its own “certified” refurbisher program called “Amazon Renewed” that will be unaffected by the new deal with Apple. But the requirements to sell Apple products under that program are impossible to hit for any small business: They must prove to Amazon that they spend at least $2.5 million dollars every 90 days buying Apple products “directly from a national wireless carrier or retailer with over $5 billion in annual sales (Example: Verizon, AT&T, or Target) or the manufacturer (Apple.)” This means that only big companies with direct relationships with corporate giants can meet the requirements.

This doesn't do much for customers seeking affordable Apple products. Apple continues to set the literal gold standard with its phone and laptop pricing. Severely curtailing the options Amazon customers have for affordable devices doesn't sound like an "improved customer experience," but those are the empty words both companies are using to sell this.

Now, Apple and Amazon are free to handle refurb sales however they wish. There may be a "right to first sale" just like there's First Amendment speech protections, but the actions of private companies don't infringe on that right. They're free to de-platform anyone for almost any reason. You can resell your Apple stuff. You just can't do it here.

I'd say it isn't wise for Apple to take such an antagonistic stance against its customers, but its aggressively anti-consumer efforts haven't made much of a dent in customer goodwill. It may attract the occasional attention of regulators, but not often enough to result in a softened stance on resale or repair. The problem is Apple's actions make things worse for customers who have never purchased its products. Homogenizing marketplaces rarely results in better prices and its anti-right-to-repair efforts are funneling customers towards a select few outlets and preventing device owners from enjoying the privileges of ownership.

Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: first sale, right to repair
Companies: amazon, apple

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread

  1. icon
    Thad (profile), 20 Nov 2018 @ 11:03am


    While I am concerned about the erosion of first-sale doctrine (via EULAs, DRM, etc.), I think you're conflating two separate but related issues here.

    Of course "[Amazon is] free to de-platform anyone for almost any reason. You can resell your Apple stuff. You just can't do it here" is legally valid. First-sale doctrine gives you the right to resell products, not the obligation to.

    On what legal basis would you say Amazon should be legally required to allow users to sell refurbished Apple products on its platform? You might be able to make an antitrust argument to that effect (though Lord knows there are still plenty of other online retailers where people can resell used goods, including eBay), but I don't think there's any legal merit to the suggestion that first-sale doctrine requires middlemen to allow certain types of products to be sold through their storefronts.

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter

Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Make this the First Word or Last Word. No thanks. (get credits or sign in to see balance)    
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Discord

The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...

Recent Stories

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.