Shanghai: Apple chief executive Tim Cook took the unusual step this week of apologising to Chinese customers over the company's warranty policy and said he would improve customer service in the country.
Apple's apology was the latest twist in a strange spectacle that has unfolded in recent weeks in China over Apple's warranty policies and underscored the challenges the company is facing as the country becomes an important market for its products.
Apple's problem began on International Consumers' Day, when China's biggest state-run television network, as is its tradition, broadcast an investigative report on how companies operating in China cheat or mistreat consumers. This year, on March 15, one of the targets was Apple.
China Central Television criticised the American company's after-sales iPhone customer service in China because it gave only a one-year warranty, while in China the law is two years. It also said that phone owners had to pay about $US90 ($86) to replace a faulty back cover.
Apple did not immediately respond to some of the accusations but other state media outlets stepped up their criticism over the next two weeks, raising the stakes for Apple in China, which is now the company's second-biggest market after the US.
Soon after the segment was broadcast, several Chinese celebrities piled on, posting harsh comments on Weibo, China's Twitter-like service.
Then People's Daily, the official mouthpiece of the Communist Party, published a series of editorials and articles, including one paper titled "Defeat Apple's incomparable arrogance".
Other state organs also joined the fray. China's State Administration for Industry and Commerce, which has oversight of business practices in China, called for "strengthened supervision" of the company.
And, in recent days, television evening news broadcasts have included images of Chinese journalists being turned away from Apple's offices in China.
Apple, based in California, issued a statement in Chinese to the media on Monday.
"We realise that a lack of communication in this process has led the outside to believe that Apple is arrogant and doesn't care or value consumers' feedback," Mr Cook wrote in the open letter. "We sincerely apologise for any concern or misunderstanding."
Some media analysts and bloggers have called the media frenzy over Apple's warranty policies bizarre because of the ferocity of it. Other analysts speculate that the continuing media blitz against Apple is aimed at showing what the government can do to American technology giants, even those as successful as Apple.