The Danish Consumer Complaints Board this week decided that Apple is responsible for replacing at least some iBook G4 notebooks in its home territory after publishing the results of an important study, which it said proved that critical failures in the portables were the product of an inherent defect rather than random failures.
Following an abundance of complaints from owners, the oversight agency conducted its own global investigation and found a startup problem that occurred with an almost clockwork precision. In almost every case, the PowerPC-based iBooks would inexplicably fail to boot up after only a year of active use, regardless of the laptop's actual condition.
The flaw had prompted some users to discover jury-rigged solutions that restored life to the ailing computers; some had gone so far as to use a workshop clamp or a cardboard shim to create pressure that would allow the Macs to boot.
The steady deluge of complaints, and a subsequent investigation by the independent lab Delta, led the Board to discover an easily repeatable flaw: a solder joint for a mainboard chip would loosen with each press of the power button, invariably causing a break in an important connection that would effectively kill the system. The improvised tactics used to keep the systems alive were working because they reestablished the link, the report noted.
"It is a bit like a person dying a little bit every time he breathes because the cells break down," observed the CCB's lawyer for the matter, Frederik Boesgaard Navne. "In the same way, the computer dies a little every time you turn it on and off."
For its part , Apple has staunchly refused to deal with the issue as anything but a string of individual cases. Customers who reach technical support have been told by representatives that their problems are isolated, necessitating a case-by-case repair -- a costly option for most users, who in many circumstances have fallen outside of the free one-year warranty.
To date, Apple has only compensated iBook owners one-by-one when confronted with the findings, according to the Danish government organization.
The newly publicized decision now mandates that Apple accept returns of any iBook found to have the problem in Denmark; the CCB, however, commented that its official opinion should serve as a formal warning to Apple about the problem on an international level. Thousands of users had experienced the problem outside of the Scandinavian country, the group said, and it would be hypocritical of the company to acknowledge a defect in one area but ignore the same issue in another.
"The question now is whether Apple is going to go on denying that there is a design fault in the same type of computer in the world outside Denmarks borders," the agency wrote.