by Tom Kaneshige

Apple Global Service Providers Behaving Badly

Jan 07, 2011
IT Leadership

An Apple service provider sues a customer in Greece - and the mess lands on Apple's doorstep.

Dimitris Papadimitriadis, a physician in Greece, recently complained in an online forum about receiving less-than-stellar customer service from Systemgraph, an Apple-authorized service provider. He described Systemgraph as “dodgy” when trying to fix his broken iMac.

Now Systemgraph is suing Papadimitriadis for 200,000 euros, claiming he participated in “an organised attempt to slander and insult” the company.

Like anything having to do with Apple, the case has gone viral on Twitter. Most people are siding with Papadimitriadis: Is this how Apple treats its customers? Probably not the kind of image Apple wants to foster around the world. But what can Apple do?


Right or wrong, U.S. companies’ names are dragged through the mud whenever their global suppliers and service providers behave badly. That’s why Apple has strict code-of-conduct policies and conducts routine audits at supplier facilities, in order to keep them in line.

But despite Apple’s best efforts, bad press keeps landing on the Cupertino company’s doorstep. Last spring, for instance, the media seized on the disclosure of Apple’s audits of 102 supplier facilities that turned up 17 violations, ranging from underage workers to improprieties related to the disposal of hazardous waste.

In 2009, Sun Danyong, a 25-year-old employee of Foxconn Technology Group, a Taiwanese manufacturer and key Apple supplier, leapt 12 stories to his death after an iPhone prototype went missing under his watch. His death occurred shortly after Foxconn’s security personnel paid Danyong a visit at his home and accused him of shifting blame.

“We are saddened by the tragic loss of this young employee, and we are awaiting results of the investigations into his death,” said Jill Tan, an Apple spokeswoman in Hong Kong. “We require our suppliers to treat all workers with dignity and respect.”

I’m assuming this means Apple service providers should treat customers with respect, too. The Systemgraph lawsuit is only the latest incident as Apple navigates the tricky waters of a global service and supply chain.

Apple, of course, can’t really control the behavior of its suppliers – at least not outside policies governing clear-cut issues such as child labor. What it can do, though, is use its weight and lean on suppliers to conduct themselves in a manner that keeps the Apple brand shiny.

The Systemgraph lawsuit is bad for everyone: Apple, Apple customers, Papadimitriadis and, ultimately, Systemgraph itself. Twitter has already made Systemgraph out to be the bad guy. Even if Systemgraph wins the lawsuit against the doctor, it’s hard to imagine anyone bringing their damaged goods to Systemgraph.

Worst of all, the lawsuit casts Apple in a bad light. The world’s largest tech company prides itself on stellar customer service, so it’s unlikely Apple will turn a blind eye to an Apple-authorized service provider suing a customer for complaining.

What was Systemgraph thinking? It’s never smart to raise Apple’s ire, not even for a couple hundred thousand euros.

Tom Kaneshige covers Apple and Networking for Follow Tom on Twitter @kaneshige. Follow everything from on Twitter @CIOonline. Email Tom at