Clement Says No Legal Block To Using Apple iTunes Gift Cards For Apps

In recent months there have been several reports on consumer frustrations with Applei iTunes gift cards, which in Canada cannot be used for applications or games.  Apple's response has been that there are legal reasons for the restrictions.  I've never been able to figure out what those might be and it appears that Industry Minister Tony Clement can't either.  Jim Whitelaw of Edmonton, Alberta has a terrific post on his experience with Apple and his response from Clement, in which the Minister says he is not aware of laws preventing the use of gift cards for purchases of applications.

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  1. Matthew Skala says:

    I’d like to see more comment on the fact that the Apple representative offered him and his daughter song credits – after they just got through explaining that they didn’t want to buy songs – instead of the requested refund.

    The service representative probably has neither knowledge nor authority to answer the legal question. The “can’t use it in Canada” thing would have come from the legal department, and all the representative can do is forward the inquiry and parrot back whatever the company line is. But the inappropriate, borderline-insulting, apology gesture is squarely within the rep’s job description – they should have known better than to do that. That’s a culpable error on the part of an identifiable human being, and it would make me more angry than the legal nonsense (which is probably just excessive precaution, and typical of what I expect from all large corporations).

  2. Jim Whitelaw says:

    Michael, thanks for the coverage. As far as I have been able to determine, Canada is the only country where this is an issue in the Apple app store. I’d really like to find out what is at the root of this restriction.

    So far, I’ve received no response from Apple (I did submit a message with Clement’s comments via the app store feedback page as well as to Mr. Jobs). I doubt that I will hear back about it unless the issue gets enough attention for it to become embarrassing for Apple.

  3. Usaah Yoor Bryan says:

    Expect this kind of treatment from Apple. They are a proprietary software vendor who only pragmaticly does anything open at all. The iPhone/iPod is a locked down proprietary device where you have no rights to do anything. May I suggest that you made a mistake in purchasing such a device? Perhaps next time invest in devices and software where freedom is a feature.

  4. Apple…
    Can Apple be even more stupid… after the fact lacking PC vs Mac adds… and the “Macs are build with security in mind” add, I tought they would have stopped… but then aggain Apple is now a religion spawning world wide… So we will probably see Apple Zeelots trying to, once aggain, defend Apple’s undefendable position.

  5. Wish I had known about the ristriction before I bought
    I may have went with a lennix laptop

  6. Slow down people ... read the terms you agree to says:

    well informed consumers actually read terms of sale when they agree to them
    Please read the terms of sale people !!!!!

    here … ill make it easy for you and past it here


    Gift Certificates may be redeemed for iTunes Store transactions only and are non-refundable for cash. They cannot be used for purchases on the Apple Online Store or used in Apple Retail Stores. Purchases for Gift Certificates may be purchased only in whole Canadian dollar increments or designated amounts. Gift Certificates may not be used to purchase other Gift Certificates, iTunes Cards or Monthly Allowances. Gift Certificates cannot be used to purchase software, games, or apps.

    Monthly Allowances are for transactions on the iTunes Store only. The Allowance Account may not be used for gifts, or purchases on the Apple Online Store or in Apple Retail Stores. Monthly Allowances may not be used for purchases on the Apple Online Store or in Apple Retail Stores. Monthly Allowances are non-refundable. Monthly Allowances may not be used to purchase Gift Certificates, iTunes Cards, Apps, or other Monthly Allowances. Monthly allowances may not be used to purchase software, games, or apps.
    iTunes Cards are for transactions on the iTunes Store only. iTunes Cards may not be used for gifts, or purchases on the Apple Online Store or in Apple Retail Stores. iTunes Cards are non-refundable. iTunes Cards may not be used to purchase Gift Certificates, Monthly Allowances, Apps, or other iTunes Cards. iTunes Cards may not be used to purchase software, games, or apps.


  7. Jim Whitelaw says:

    @slowdownpeople, the issue here is not the *substance* of Apple’s policy, per se. It’s that Apple has stated that the *reason* for this policy is Canadian commerce law and yet it appears that there is no applicable law. What I (and others) want to know is: what is the real reason?

  8. Jim Whitelaw says:

    Apple changes its (i)Tune
    OK, another update. As of today, Apple says that the issue is not due to legal restrictions, just policy. And that the previous claim regarding Canadian commerce law was an “unauthorized statement”.

  9. Mike Heywood says:

    Yeah right, Mr. Slowdown…
    Slowdown wrote: well informed consumers actually read terms of sale when they agree to them
    Please read the terms of sale people !!!!!

    Give me a break! I have been an iTunes account holder since before apps even existed. Sure, I read the terms and agreements when I set up my account but if you think that people actually read their terms and conditions fully every time there is an update your nuts. There is a big difference between a term and condition and fair warning of the limitations of a product such as a gift card.

    If you read the language on the the gift card there is no mention of this limitation. Whether or not it is apples fault that you cannot purchase apps on iTunes is irrelevant, the Gift Card itself should clearly indicate what it can and cannot be used for.

    Consider this scenario… you buy a iPhone for somebody as a gift and a gift card to go with it. The receiver of the gift has never used iTunes and sets up a new account. They read the terms and conditions and realize that they cannot use the gift card they just received in the way it is intended. They cannot return the gift card (stores won’t take them back) so they either must use them for things they don’t want or they have to sell it privately. Totally unfair and reflects poorly on apple… which in all other ways has excellent service.

    These issues are exactly why there are laws in place regulating the use of gift cards (at least here in Alberta anyway) and Apple needs to take responsibility in this issue and display a fair waring on the gift card itself so the the customer can make a properly informed decision.

  10. Terms and conditions
    I would also add that the gift cards are specific to Canada and the packaging is covered with restrictions but there is no mention of this one. The section taking the most space here is the ‘Terms and Conditions’.

    Finally, I don’t really understand this tendency to blame the buyer. The terms and conditions are 10000 words. Ten thousand words. (10,070 to be exact) Every day I buy multiple items without having to read 10000 words of legal text. They were updated in September. As someone else has mentioned, these things are updated routinely. Please also note that the excerpt above contains only 250 words out of those 10000.

    Finally (last one), why is Apple willing to use the limited space on the back of the card package to tell me to “Don’t steal music” but unwilling to tell me that I can’t buy apps? The balance has swung away from service and towards contempt for their customers.

  11. Failure
    There is no law – we have proven that, Apple has not taken any responsibility.

    I want my apps for my Ipod touch give me 1 reason (other than the fact it won’t let me because it says so) why I can’t redeem my money for what I want.

    Obviously they have made a mistake and like someone already said: they aren’t going to do anything to make it right unless if enough people complain.

    I am sure a lot of people would like to complain and do… But the apple customer support for legal issues is downright failure.

    “Our mistake, there is no laws prohibiting Canadians to download apps. I’m not going to do anything about it, of course. This topic is now closed as it is solved”.

    And that answer had to be pushed out of them! Most people who contacted them couldn’t get past whether the law existed or not, simply receiving a mail like this:

    “The policy states you can’t buy apps etc. This is now solved. I really hope that helped”.

  12. terms & conditions
    I would have to agree with some of the above mentioned responses to the Terms and Conditions. We get it that the Terms and Conditions state that you can not use the gift cards to purchase apps…..the thing is WHY? Apple is getting the money either way. What difference does it make what we spend it on.
    This is an issue that needs to be resolved.

    Why is is that we are able to download the free apps….but can not use this APPLE gift card to buy them?

    Keep up the fight Jim. How can the rest of us assist in the battle with Apple?

  13. Long-Standing Issue
    My first (and so far only) purchase of an iTunes gift card was last year. Ran into this problem (my main purpose was to buy a few things on the App Store).
    Blogged about it and been receiving a number of visits and comments on my blogposts on the issue.
    When I bought the card, the Terms and Conditions didn’t include anything about the restriction. Neither did the page where I could redeem it. After searching through both the US and Canadian Apple sites, I eventually found a passage in the Canadian one which contained this restriction.
    I contacted Apple then. They used the “regulation prevents it” defence. It seemed mysterious and I poke a bit more, but didn’t receive a more satisfying answer.
    Because I had redeemed the card, they couldn’t offer a refund. They offered a song credit (I still have a few of those left, a year later). I contacted them again a few months later (or, as I recall, they contacted me to close the ticket, saying that the situation had been resolved). I enquired a bit further and they eventually said that it wasn’t, in fact, a regulatory issue. Yet they didn’t offer a more precise explanation.

    I eventually saw Jim’s posts as well as this one since people kept posting comments on my blog. With the holidays, I actually got hundreds of views on these posts. Problem is, I don’t know anything specific about this. In my case, the discussion has mostly been about reasons for this restriction (it still puzzles me) and about ways to make purchases on the Canadian App Store using prepaid credit cards.

    For reference:

  14. This policy has apparently now changed; I purchased some apps on May 20th in the Canadian iTunes store using an existing iTunes gift card balance; no credit card was requested. I realized something was different when a “terms and conditions have changed” window popped up while logging in. An unexpected but pleasant surprise.

  15. Still can not Gift and app from store credit
    Yes, you can now use a gift card to purchase apps in Canada, but Apple has still left the restriction on that you can not buy an app for another user with the credit. Why? Because users now spend more money and they make interest off of the money sitting in your account unused. Recommendation: Don’t ever buy gift cards for ANYTHING. Give a check or cash if you really can’t figure out what to buy someone. On that note, Apple should remove the restriction to downloading free apps without a credit card or gift card.