Last month I was browsing the Mac App Store and noticed that Keynote, Pages and Numbers were listed in the “Top Free Apps” section. Each of the iWorks apps had a 20.99AUD price tag attached to them. That didn’t seem very “free”. The Australian Consumer Law makes it clear that this is illegal. In Australia if a product or service is advertised with more than one price, the consumer is entitled to the item at the lowest price, which in this case was free. It is also unlawful to engage in misleading and deceptive conduct, such a promoting something as free, then trying to charge for it.
I contacted Apple support who first claimed that it wasn’t multiple pricing as “free” isn’t a price, “[t]here is only 1 price displayed for these apps which is $20.99 AUD”. Later another customer service rep claimed “[t]he apps are showing up in the Free section due to the large number of customers who are eligible for the free iWork apps” under the up to date program. The same rep admitted that they “understand how [the apps being in the free section] might set the wrong kind of expectation”. Apple was claiming that a technical limitation of their App Store allowed them to break the law. After more than a week of getting the run around from Apple I decided to lodge a complaint with NSW Fair Trading, as Apple Australia is registered in NSW.
Fair Trading found in my favour, but they’re unable to compel Apple to give me the apps for free. I would have to travel to Sydney for a hearing at NCAT if I wanted to make Apple hand over the apps. It wasn’t worth the hassle for 63AUD. Fair Trading advised me that they were referring Apple for investigation. If the investigation found that Apple had broken the law, then I and all Australian Mac owners might be entitled to the apps for free. At this point I had given up on pursuing the matter further.
Around 2 weeks later, out of the blue, I received an email from Fair Trading. I assumed that it was just confirming the details of the telephone conversation. To my surprise the attached PDF was a letter advising me that Apple had caved in and had offered me coupon codes for the apps. Victory!
I have installed all 3 apps, but I have no intention of ever using Pages and Numbers - I have MS Office and Google Docs for that stuff. I really only wanted Keynote and probably would have paid for it, except Apple had listed it as free. This was a fight over principles - customers shouldn’t be misled.
If you live in Australia, you want any of the iWorks apps for free, you aren’t eligible for the up to date program, I suggest that you lodge a complaint with NSW Fair Trading. In your submission include a screenshot of the App Store showing the free apps heading along side the price for the app/s. I believe that if enough people do this it will result in one of two things happening; Apple will fix the problem with the App Store or Apple will make the apps free for all users after an investigation.
Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, nothing in this blog post should be considered legal advice. I recommend you seek advice from a suitably qualified professional before acting on this information. If you don’t get the apps for free, don’t sue me.