Apple has been accused of passing off refurbished iPhone 4 handsets as new in China, and now faces legal action and potentially a high level of embarrassment.
Wang Hai, a well-known consumer rights campaigner, was contacted by six suspecting iPhone buyers, two of whom then filed a lawsuit against US tech giant Apple.
The evidence comes from, among others, two customers who purchased iPhone 4 handsets from the same store, the Xidan Joy City Apple Store in Beijing, on the same day, July 9th. In both cases, upon registering their smartphones on Apple's website, the users discovered their warranties were less than the normal one year period.
When one of the perplexed customers went back to the Apple Store to question why the warranty was shorter than normal, staff offered to replace it. After further investigation of the iPhone handsets the suspicion arose that the Apple smartphones might not be as new as suggested.
"They went to the store before calling me, but the store only offered to give them a new one without other compensation," Wang told China's Global Times.
Wang assisted in the filing of two lawsuits earlier this week, based on China's "Consumer Protection Act", claiming that at least six 'new' iPhones purchased from official Apple Stores and other authorised retailers were actually refurbished devices.
The Apple Store employees deny the accusations, saying "It's impossible that we sold refurbished cellphones."
If Apple loses the legal fight, consumer confidence in the US tech giant could be seriously undermined.