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Exclusive: iPhone Woes Revealed In FCC, FTC Consumer Complaints

Freedom of Information Act documents obtained by InformationWeek show that the Federal Communications Commission has received 72 complaints about Apple's iPhone since 2009, mostly involving AT&T. There are 450 Federal Trade Commission complaints.

FTC, FCC Reveal Complaints Filed Against Apple
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As was the case with the FCC, the FTC received a number of complaints about Apple's decision to change its developer rules to disallow Adobe's Flash technology and other third-party development tools and about Apple's oversight of the iTunes Store.

One such complaint says, "The company has recently done something that I think is unfair in the marketplace. Apple updated their developer license agreement to include that a person MUST use only their tools in order to develop for iPhone related products. This is unfair because it unnecessarily limits the development, and restricts the use of other perfectly capable tools. Apple should have the right to reject apps based on security, quality, etc., to some degree, but they should not have the right to tell us how we build our apps."

Some of the FTC complaints have been resolved. For example, a developer who alleged discriminatory treatment by Apple because the company had approved a dating app for straight people and rejected a version that differed only in name for the gay community appears to have received the approval he or she sought: Both versions of the cited app are currently available in the iTunes App Store.

But other complaints, echoing complaints submitted to the FCC, have not. "I would like to report anti-competitive practices on the part of Apple and AT&T," one person said last August. "The rejection of the Google Voice application for the iPhone is stifling innovation and preventing competition."

One iPhone user sought FTC intervention because he or she is unable to address a security vulnerability in the iPhone without purchasing either Mac OS X or Windows and using iTunes to obtain the patch. Another complains, "Apple continually tried to force consumers away from other third party [music] software whenever a consumer attempts to move away from iTunes."

There's a complaint seeking to prevent Apple's acquisition of online music service

Another complaint, echoing a recent lawsuit filed against Apple, says the company refused to provide warranty repair coverage for an iPhone because it had been submerged in water, a claim the complainant disputes.

"I told them that my phone was never submerged or dipped into water," the complaint says. "They say it might have come from sweat. Maybe it came from moisture due to humidity. I saw on the Web this was a common problem on iPhone. They will replace it but I have to pay $199."

All told, the collection of complaints about Apple shows more concern for issues affecting consumers' wallets -- warranty repair disputes, unauthorized charges -- than for issues of technical freedom and developer rights.

Nonetheless, there is some concern among consumers about Apple's controversial technical policies. If this matters to Apple, the company may choose to address at least some of these perceived problems at its developer conference next month.