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Apple tightens Hong Kong online sales policy to deter scalpers ahead of iPhone 8 launch

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 August, 2017, 3:36pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 15 August, 2017, 10:58pm

Apple Inc appears to have tightened its sales policy for Hong Kong a second time, with another custom tailored restriction to deter scalpers from getting their hands on the much-awaited launch next month of its iPhone 8 model.

In a note on Apple’s online store in Hong Kong, the company announced that it will not “accept return for online orders placed on, and after August 15th, 2017.” Apple’s online stores in mainland China still offer customers both free delivery, and return services.

Apple didn’t reply to the South China Morning Post’s inquiries regarding its sales policy in the city.

The move mirrors the policy unveiled in September last year during the launch of Apple’s iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus models, when the company levied a 25 per cent “open box fee,” or a 15 per cent “restocking fee” when customers return their Apple or Beats products, depending on whether the packaging had been opened.

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The policy may be temporary in nature, apparently paving the way for the launch of a new iPhone, said Zhao Ziming, an industry analyst in Beijing.

“It shows Apple’s confidence on the new handsets as it believes the new iPhones will be in short supply initially,” said Zhao. “It’s coming up with these tactics to fend off scalpers.”

The policy is a break for the world’s most valuable company, as it normally offers customers a 14-day free return service for undamaged products, upon showing original receipt and packaging. The company may have taken the extra step in Hong Kong because the city’s duty-free retail industry and cheaper currency makes it particularly susceptible to scalpers.

As 2017 marks the 10th anniversary of the iPhone, fans of the Cupertino, California-based company are anticipating a blockbuster product, and the company is wary that scalpers will be out in force. The new model, which is speculated to feature a full screen at US$1,000 apiece, may be priced between 15 per cent to 20 per cent higher in mainland China.

This year is a particularly crucial one for Apple, whose market share on the mainland has been increasingly eroded by local brands such as Huawei, Oppo, Vivo and Xiaomi. Second-quarter sales in Hong Kong, the mainland, Macau and Taiwan fell 9.5 per cent to a combined US$8 billion, making the Greater China region one of the company’s worst-performing markets.

A decline in tourist numbers to Hong Kong was a contributing factor to the weaker sales, said Apple’s chief financial officer Luca Maestri.

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