Apple Won't Refund My Macbook, Which Is A Lemon

“Dear Consumerist,

So I purchased a MacBook last year and it’s been a nightmare. It’s been replaced twice now, each time with multiple mail-out services before Apple would replace the laptop.

Each time Apple representatives told me that under warranty details they will refund at ‘their discretion’, which seems to mean never. Am I stuck with yet another lemon laptop now that I’ve run out of ways to escalate?
Does California offer me any good consumer protection? Can I take them to small claims court perhaps?”

When I encountered issues with the third machine, I took your column’s advice and escalated to a supervisor on the technical line and asked for a refund, but met with a canned denial. So I escalated to Jean Toulouse, but met with a canned denial from a secondary. So I escalated to Steve Jobs, but met with a canned denial from a secondary.

Here’s the timeline, I’ve tried to keep it as short as possible. I had AppleCare for the 1st MacBook, repurchased it for the 2nd, but did not repurchase it for the 3rd.

2006/05/27 – Buy new MacBook.
2006/05/30 – Called in regarding dead pixels and that the machine kept freezing even after nuke and pave. Apple would not refund but agreed to replace.
2006/06/05 – Get new MacBook.
2006/08/22 – Called in regarding the screen would dim and brighten
randomly. Also would sometimes wake from sleep with color bands across screen. Apple has me ship MacBook in for repairs.
2006/08/29 – Get MacBook back, still has the problem. Apple has me ship MacBook in for repairs.
2006/09/18 – Get MacBook back, still has the problem. Apple has me ship MacBook in for repairs.
2006/10/11 – After waiting, then a lot of phone tag, finally get in touch with Apple and told they wish to keep the unit for research. Apple would not refund but agreed to replace.
2006/10/16 – Get new MacBook
2007/05/05 – Hard drive fails. Call Apple, who send me a replacement hard drive.
2007/07/26 – Interior plastic starts cracking. Call Apple who would not refund but only to repair.

Loyal Reader,
Jason Lanum


Since your laptop has been replaced more than 3 times for the same problem, you could very well qualify for a full refund under “Lemon Law” (see: “What Is “Lemon Law?””)

Check the info for your state but you’re lucky that California has very pro-consumer lemon laws. There, you can get a toaster replaced under lemon law.

I would first suggest recontacting Apple to demand a full refund under Lemon Law, and if they fail to comply, sue them in small claims court. Here’s info on how to take your case to small claims court, a list of info and contact information for small claims courts by state, and the inspiring story of a man who has successfully sued several telemarketers in small claims court.

(Photo: amyadoyzie)


Edit Your Comment

  1. JohnOB1 says:

    Apple can be very sketchy to about repairs sometimes.

    A few months back, I had attempted to have repaired the cracked topcase (the wristguards) which is documented TONS of times on the web. The “GENIUS” (so ironic) told me that it was MY FAULT and that Apple doesn’t cover abuse or some such nonsense.

    I keep my MacBook in a case i bought from the Apple Store and treat the damn machine like a baby.

    Fast forward to a few days ago, Apple has decided to “repair” the problem… but I love how it went from something that I did to something they now are repairing en masse.

    Their service is wonderful when it works for you, but its hit or miss when that happens.

  2. enm4r says:

    Step 1) Film self smashing Apple product with s sledge hammer, or other large tools of choice
    Step 2) Post on Youtube
    Step 3) Allow sufficient time to reach viral status
    Step 4) Receive new free Apple product

  3. chimmike says:

    Step 5) don’t buy a mac. Overpriced hardware.

  4. Cowboys_fan says:

    @chimmike: Exactly. Unless you’re a graphics designer or in advertising or animation, there is absolutely no need. My GF’s mom works for Apple tech care as a manager and even she would agree.

  5. Dibbler says:

    So Apple makes crap? That’s good to know…

  6. faust1200 says:

    @chimmike: Can we ever have a thread without it turning into Mac vs. PC??? Apparently not.

  7. dualityshift says:

    Mac or PC, they’re all crap.

  8. pinkbunnyslippers says:

    Who cares that you seem to think it’s “overpriced hardware” or is “completely unnecessary” to buy unless you fit into one of 4 particular career tracks? Seriously.

    People buy an Apple for a number of reasons, and I don’t think any of them is out of sheer need. Nobody *needs* a computer.

    The fact of the matter is, regardless of price, Apple sold a product that didn’t live up to its end of the bargain and needs to ameliorate the problem.

    Sorry, I’m just tired of Apple-bashers out there.

  9. Jaysyn was banned for: says:


    Depends on how much your time is worth. I was spending way too much time doing tech support for my parents Windows PCs. I got Mom a lower-end iMac for Christmas 4 years ago & the only time I’ve spent on it is setting it up initially. It also has the added bonus of Mom actually enjoying her computer instead of cursing it constantly. YMMV.

  10. Amy Alkon says:

    Uh, had Macs since 1985. Great computers.

  11. Jasmo says:

    what happened after 2007/07/26? If they’re willing to repair it ad nauseum, you should go for it. It’d be a hell of a lot more interesting to see how long this goes on than to read another macsupport sob story.

  12. spinachdip says:

    @chimmike: Really depends on your idea of “overpriced”. Apple generally performs comparably or better than their competition when it comes to total cost of ownership, i.e. stuff like cost of add-ons and upkeep.

  13. spdustin says:

    QUOTE: Since your laptop has been replaced more than 3 times for the same problem, you could very well qualify for a full refund under “Lemon Law”

    Clearly, you are not a lawyer. And you’re giving this poor guy (why is the photo of a woman?) *awful* legal advice. You need to stop that. He now has a new MacBook. Even if the so-called “lemon laws” applied to products other than vehicles (THEY DON’T), it wouldn’t apply in his case because they actually replaced the product.

  14. cde says:

    @spdustin: Are you a lawyer? Do you know all the state statures that might apply to him? If not the “lemon-laws” then the Consumer fraud or Implied Warranty acts?

    But you are right. They did replace the laptop three times, three different laptops, two with the same problems (display).

  15. Cowboys_fan says:

    @Jaysyn: You’re right that macs are certainly more stable, I in no way promote windows either. I go for linux – stable and free.
    Apple is clearly wrong here, which is why I think it gets off topic. There’s no point in 30 of us saying the same things.

  16. Dibbler says:

    @Amy Alkon: Are you that one that finally had to replace your mouse on your mac after 30 years of use? I heard about you on the news last week. I think it’s time to get a new computer. ;)

  17. ingridc says:

    1. “Clearly” you know better than Ben, so what’s your advice here?

    2. I think his letter said his most recent Macbook is cracking, so I’m not sure how your point that “He now has a new MacBook” applies.

    3. A quick Google of California electronics consumer laws came up with this: [] (The Bureau of Electronic and Appliance Repair). I didn’t do a thorough comb-through, but go here for the present regulations. Hopefully this helps.

  18. luckybob343 says:

    Your problems are imaginary. Macs “just work”.

  19. Sucko-T says:

    This is the only thing you ever need to read about macs and their owners.


  20. gatopeligroso says:

    In order to qualify for the “Lemon Law”, the unit has to be serviced for the same thing three separate times. When the unit was serviced on 8/22, then shipped to you still broken, that would be considered a re-work, not a separate incident. Its a bit underhanded, but that is the way it would be looked at. At this point, if possible, maybe a trip to an Apple Store would help.

  21. Nemesis_Enforcer says:

    @strum40: Wow I have to clean my PC monitor now, I managed to expel coke from my nose on that one. Thanks for the 1st laugh of the day!

  22. defectiveburger says:

    ……or quit buying POS macs and avoid the problems all together……

  23. CumaeanSibyl says:

    I don’t see why companies are so reluctant to issue refunds in these cases. Doesn’t it cost money to handle support calls, repairs, and replacements? How many people have been paid for how many hours to work on this issue, and how much have they spent on new computers?

    It just seems to me that a refund would end up costing them less.

  24. Jaysyn was banned for: says:


    Yeah, if I had to do it now I’d probably go with a cheaper PC & Ubuntu. I didn’t know enough about Linux 4 years ago, nor was it as user-friendly as some distributions are now.

  25. hushed says:

    Modern Mac and PCs are equal when it comes to graphic design. There are some particular cases where each have an advantage over the other, but over all, they are equal when it comes to graphic design.

    Anyone who tells you otherwise is just closed minded.

  26. bedofnails says:

    Did you plug it in?

  27. Dr.Ph0bius says:


    I did the same thing… and encouraged any friends who asked as well. Since then I havent had a single reformat to do as a result of scumware infected OS, crazy toolbars or “free” programs they would load that contained various malware. Every “free” program anyone wanted had an open source equivalent. My mom loves “Weather Dock,” which subsitutes for the windows Weather Bug, which is just a spyware conduit.

  28. gibsonic says:

    I bought my wife a $700 acer laptop and it works just grand. Look at all the money i saved!

  29. mermaidshoes says:

    i’m not an applecare expert, but if he bought the service with the first computer, shouldn’t he be covered for the length of the applecare agreement, even if they replace the actual machine? i don’t understand why he would have to re-buy applecare with the replacement machines. i glanced at the applecare service agreement and i don’t see anything about a replacement voiding applecare. i could just be missing something, though. []

  30. LionelEHutz says:

    The last good computer was the Altair 8800. Everything since then has been an overpriced piece of crap.

  31. LionelEHutz says:

    forgot to add — I bought a macbook pro about a month ago from MacMall that had a defective power brick. While I had to speak with a stoner voiced customer service rep at Apple, which was a experience in itself, Apple replaced it without hassle and even shipped it to me via next day air. As for the retards at MacMall and their vaporware “rebates” that’s another ball of wax I’m just beginning to deal with.

  32. djxspike says:

    Suing Apple for fun and profit.

  33. nan says:

    @JohnOB1: I have the same problem! Was the top case cracked like this?


    Geniuses said they wouldn’t cover it under the original warranty – it wasn’t until I’d bothered to activate the stupid applecare that the tech support started giving me the time of day. But as it stands, they haven’t done anything yet. The appletech guy on the phone told me that he had to check with his “superiors” and would be in touch..

  34. pestie says:

    @pinkbunnyslippers: Bit it’s just so much fun to point out that Macs are the computer of choice for people who are too hip to admit to enjoying anything as pedestrian as a computer! I mean, I understand that homosexual graphic designers in San Francisco need to print fliers for their art-film festivals somehow, but…

    Sorry. Sorry! I can’t help myself!

  35. retech says:

    @pestie: thanks for contributing absolutely nothing

  36. Usermanual says:

    They replaced the machine 3 times? In my opinion this is highly suspect of the treatment or use of the machine.

    Apple has been nothing but 100% helpful in the replacment of unsatisfactory products in my experience. I purchased a 23″ Cinema Display that had 1 dead pixel in the center of the display. The representative from the Genuis Bar gave me a new display on the spot.

  37. MorgueReader says:

    @Usermanual: That’s always been my experience, too. This actually sounds made-up to me. Maybe for attention?

  38. ZenWarrior says:

    Apple has been unwelcome in my home/office/cubicle/bathroom since doing the same to me many years ago with a PowerMac 7500. It arrived essentially DOA. Apple never fixed it and would not take it back. However, they did allow me to “upgrade” to a more expensive model (the 8500) and pay the cost difference. Put succinctly, Apple ripped me off!

    In fact, that’s also why I turned down a job (no pun intended) offered by Apple only a few months later. I wanted nothing to do with the rip-off artists at Apple. (That was after I told Apple how to fix the problem that it swore did not exist with the 7500 series.)

  39. ivieso says:


    Yes I agree with you usermanual. With that many replacement it is suspect to abuse. Either you really have bad luck or you are one those are one of those consumer that finds everything wrong with a piece of hardware untils you get a refund. Once you get your refund, your going to get the better same hardware with better specs, so you got more than money worth. You just want something for nothing and this happens more often than not with retail consumers. I forgot what it is called from the top of my head. But your sticking it to Apple, then Apple sticks it to the rest of us…wait they already do that. Stick it to em good Jason!

  40. JustIcedCoffee says:

    where did you buy the computer?
    Your timeline states you wanted to and denied a refund with a return 3 days after purchase – Were you not aware of their refund policy(assuming you bought from apple)?
    Apples refund policy []

    How many dead pixels? Location? I understand that if you call in for a refund or replacement on dead pixels that do not meet apples definition of a problem they will give you a very hard time, perhaps they flag you as a problem customer after that.
    I know you had freezing issues as well, but I believe anything involving dead pixels will cause the same response.
    I don’t know if you take it to the apple store geniuses, I’ve always had a better response from them, especially if the issue is reproducible.
    I think you should just take it back apple and have them keep replacing/fixing it as you are clearly outside of the 14 day return policy.
    Definitely unfair that you have to repurchase apple care.

  41. theloniousmonster says:

    I have a first generation MacBook, and it has it’s issues as well. Apple, while not nearly as bad as Sony, has had a horrible track record when it comes to the reliability of their first gen products.

    The fact is, most of the time, a Mac will be more reliable than it’s PC counterpart. Things happen, however. It is just a machine. It’s not perfect like us humans.

    Also, AppleCare is registered to the device even if it’s replaced.

  42. tashinak says:

    Hello, I’m the MacBook owner in question and I’ll try to answer everyone’s questions here. Apologies if I miss anyone.

    I bought the laptop from the online store. The three dead pixels were in the middle of the screen IIRC. Apple did not want to refund and insisted on replacing it, but the process was onerous and I have a suspicion that they thought I was being deliberately difficult. As for the Genius bar, I found out the first time I went there that the ‘online store and retail stores are different’ and that they could ship it in for repairs but would not replace or refund on site.

    To USERMANUAL (et al):
    While I can understand your skepticism, this is an actual case. I have 15 pages from Apple Support to document the entire, unpleasant business. As for product abuse, there hasn’t been any. This laptop has been treated very carefully, I’ve gear to protect it, never let it overheat or placed it somewhere where it can get a spill or fall. Oddly, the 12′ PowerBook I had before this traveled to Australia, Asia and across the US under less then ideal conditions and *never* had a problem. In fact I’ve owned everything from the Newton to the Luggable to the SE/30 and this is the first time I’ve ever run into an issue with an Apple product.

  43. MudMt says:

    I’m afraid my Macbook is a bit of a lemon itself, but The Apple store bailed me out once because of it, and thus brought back the love. My nephew dropped the Macbook on a seatbelt, and cracked the LCD. Because I’d been having such hell with it, they replaced the screen under warranty where I would’ve had to pay a $800 repair bill because it falls under as “Accidental damage”

  44. Dancing Milkcarton says:


    Unless you’re a graphics designer or in advertising or animation, there is absolutely no need. My GF’s mom works for Apple tech care as a manager and even she would agree.

    That’s so weird, I was just sitting here thinking, “I wonder what Cowboys_fan’s girlfriend’s Mom thinks about Apple.” Now I have my answer and will adjust my buying patterns accordingly.

  45. Blackneto says:

    Mac or PC i feel that from the description the problem is with the owner.
    Faulty power at her residence can cause problems like this.
    I’m not talking power surges but dips in power that are more common than people think.
    If you aren’t running your PC on a UPS you are going to have problems eventually with it.

  46. MyCokesBiggerThanYours says:

    I always find these stories strange. No one I know personally has ever had a such a bad issue. Apple sent a new hard drive? For the user to install? Thats not like Apple at all. I think there is more to this case than a simple “my computer broke.”

  47. JustIcedCoffee says:

    thanks for replying. Yea the pixel thing stinks… from what I gathered online, they say 7 dead or 5 bright pixels constitute a anomaly, which is crazy.
    I would suggest going to the apple store because the geniuses are right in front of you…
    Think of it this way – explaining and the other person comprehending the problem is hard enough in person than on the phone. The people on a phone can totally misinterpret your description whereas the genius’ will most likely want to see the problem, and will write accordingly.

  48. slapBOXmaster says:

    apples unspoken policy is usually like a credit company’s keep on asking for managers until you upset them enough. If you have applecare bitch as loudly and frequently as you can. If they are anything like they were in the g5 era you should get a new replacement. Also (for as strange as it sounds) write the jobs man yourself and cc a copy to the highest up manager you spoke to.

  49. maclaptopuser says:

    Apples fruity support / warranty / Apple “care” policies are subject to much controversy. Some people seem to do alright, while others suffer the same fate as this three time Apple Laptop Turned Lemon. The overwhelming success of the iPod has further inflated Apples already giant sized ego to the point where all problems with the product are denied, then that position is backed up by the Cult of Apple Zealots that actually believe everything they are fed no matter how outrageous Apples claims are.

    Speak the truth, especially if you have a problem with Apple and you are labeled a “hater” or some other juvenile expression. Speak out about a problem you’ve had with a Dell, or Hp and you are treated with respect as there is no Cult following of any other tech brand.

    Where I do agree that Apple is superior is in it’s amazing ability to pull the wool over consumers eyes, sell the Hype, the overpriced products, and have them coming back for more. Some people never learn.

    iMac, iPhone, iLife, iPod, iWork, iWhatever It Is: ….. you gotta be kidding yourself, as you certainly cannot kid me.

  50. Eran9000 says:

    The Lemon Law is a great subject.

    While there are certain conditions that protect us as consumers, I believe the problem is worse by us allowing it to be the three “strikes” rule. Do we have to go through the time and headache for three times before the company realizes the product should be simply replaced or refunded? This doesn’t make sense.

    We go through so much even before purchasing a product, and when it does not work right it frustrates like hell. Then we are supposed to wait and be taken care of at their discretion.

    Because of the three “strikes” rule, I consider ALL our products “half a lemon” from day 1. We hope they work properly but can only repair them until the next time they break (up to three). Half a lemons simply work properly Half the Time. Sounds familiar? – it is like that with all our products.

    I recently posted about the subject of Half a Lemon on the Walyou blog.