Beware AppleCare Deals!

AppleCare BoxI love to save money, and I'm a big advocate of AppleCare. On various podcasts you've probably heard me discuss how you can save money on AppleCare by purchasing it from a third-party vender within one year of the purchase of the device you intend to cover. I still think that's a good policy, but a recent experience has caused me to urge even greater caution. Here's my latest (mis)adventure purchasing AppleCare. Thankfully, the story has a happy ending, but it almost cost me.

I purchased a refurbished 24" Apple Cinema Display last summer. I did not purchase AppleCare from Apple and I generally don't purchase it until I get closer to my 1 year mark with a product. The reasons I've strayed away from immediately purchasing AppleCare with a product are 1) the price when bought direct from Apple and 2) if the product has a non-covered event within the first year of life (i.e. I knock the monitor off my desk and it shatters) then I'm stuck trying to get a pro-rated refund of the AppleCare and have essentially wasted my money.

I decided it was time to purchase AppleCare for my monitor and found several options. Apple charges $99, they were the most expensive. However, I found a reseller through the Amazon Marketplace who sold me the AppleCare for $35. I was a little skeptical, but Amazon has a pretty good consumer protection guarantee so I decided to give it a go and my total price was a little more than $40 after shipping.

The package arrived a week later and sure enough was a retail boxed copy of AppleCare that was sealed. Curiously, inside the package was the Amazon invoice showing my actual purchase price, as well as an invoice from a reseller I had never  heard of with an incorrect date (showed I had purchased the product a couple of months prior) as well as showing the full retail price of the AppleCare. This should have been my first clue. The package arrived the day before I left for a trip so I set it aside for a couple of weeks until I got home and got around to registering it through Apple's support site.

During the registration process, Apple asked me for a proof of purchase. The instructions weren't clear and I assumed they wanted a proof of purchase for my monitor to confirm it was still within the one year coverage period. No problem, I sent it off. A couple of days and emails later it became clear they wanted proof of purchase of the AppleCare. Wanting to be honest, I sent them the receipt showing the true purchase date and price. Apple sent me the following email rejecting the AppleCare:

The documentation you sent, however, is not sufficient because it was purchased through an unauthorized reseller. A valid proof of purchase should contain the date of purchase, authorized reseller information, itemized product information, and total price paid.  Contacting the reseller or taking a screenshot of an online invoice may be the best way to obtain a proper receipt.

For further assistance with this issue, please scan and attach your proof of purchase or sales receipt issued by the reseller to an email and send it to…

So I contacted the reseller. They assured me this was no problem and said they would generate a receipt. They provided me with a copy of the same receipt that was inside the package showing an incorrect date and purchase price from a reseller that I never heard of. I asked them for clarification and they explained that this is just "how it works."  Interesting. So, I sent a reply email to Apple with both receipts and an explanation, making sure that I was clear with Apple that I actually bought the product through Amazon for the lower price. Apple sent back the following response:

Thank you for sending your product's proof of purchase to Apple.

Apple has re-reviewed your proof of purchase and your request to register your Applecare. Your request was carefully considered. We regret to inform you that your request has been denied.

Your request was denied because the receipt does not reflect the original retail purchase.

Apple does not offer refund for Applecare purchased from a non-Apple authorized reseller such as eBay.  Please contact the reseller for assistance.

Obvious I'm not going to get anywhere with Apple, I contacted the reseller. They tell me just to send my serial number of my product and they'll register it for me. Mind you, these people have provided no verification of who they are or that they are an Apple authorized reseller. I refuse for fear that if I go through anything other than official Apple channels that I'll have problems down the line. Several emails later, the reseller agrees to refund my money. So I'm out nothing but my time.

I ultimately ended up buying AppleCare for a discounted price (though higher than my deal) from LA Computer Company. They are an Apple Authorized Reseller and a company I've done business with before. This time, I actually spoke to the manager on the phone before my purchase and received his assurances that if there was any problem my money would be refunded. Again, when I went to register the AppleCare I was asked for Proof of Purchase and this time I  fsent AppleCare both my invoice showing the date of purchase of my monitor and my AppleCare and within 12 hours I received a confirmation from Apple that my AppleCare was active.

If you're looking to save a few bucks on AppleCare, by far the best legitimate deal is to purchase direct from Apple if you qualify for a discount through their Education Sales Program or through some other purchase program. If not, here are a few tips I would suggest to make sure you don't get burned:

  • Consider only buying from an Apple Authorized Reseller.
  • Leave yourself a cushion before your 1 year AppleCare expires incase you have problems.
  • Once you receive your AppleCare, immediately register it with Apple so you have ample time to dispute the transaction or request a refund if there are any problems.
  • Pay with some kind of method or through a service that allows you to dispute the transaction if you have problems.
  • Keep your proof or purchase and AppleCare documentation for the life of your covered product.
  • If something feels suspect, it probably is.