The internet is filled with stories from people whose Google accounts were locked for unexplained reasons, causing them to lose all of their data, including years of email, so I was somewhat concerned. But I’d never heard of similar cases involving Apple’s services, and I wouldn’t expect such behavior from a customer-focused company like Apple, so I figured it was a glitch and made a mental note to try again later.
As it turns out, my bank account number changed in January, causing Apple Card autopay to fail. Then the Apple Store made a charge on the card. Less than fifteen days after that, my App Store, iCloud, Apple Music, and Apple ID accounts had all been disabled by Apple Card.
This whole story is troublesome for several reasons — the poor customer service response, the confusing email Curtis received, the dead-end address Curtis was supposed to reply to — but primarily so because it validates some of the concerns people had about Apple entering the finance business. There are incentives for users to put their Apple purchases on their Apple Card. But the hidden risk of creating a closed loop of payments, products, and services is that being locked out of any of them will impact all of them. I do not blame anyone for switching their Apple-related payments to an Apple Card, but it seems like it comes with more caveats than Apple is letting on.
This financialization push is also incentivizing Apple to become an enforcer for a company that sucks.
First, to hold your digital life hostage until you pay off a credit card bill is grotesquely disproportionate. Second, Apple is acting as a debt collector on behalf of another company, and telling you that until you sort out your payments with them, you’re going to be shut out of your digital life. Yes, it’s called the “Apple Card”, but as the statement above explicitly details, you have to settle your debts with Goldman Sachs. Because that’s who offered you the credit. Not Apple.
This is true. What is not true is how Hansson frames this problem: “Apple basically bricked his computer as a debt-collection tactic”. Curtis’ computer was not “bricked”. The problems Curtis experienced, the grim world of credit cards, and the conglomeration of companies are all serious enough concerns that we do not need to make things up. I hope this never happens to anyone else regardless of the reason, but that really only solves the first issue. Apple is still in the credit card business with Goldman Sachs, which means it is still profiting off interest payments from indebted individuals.
Update: Apple provided a statement to Benjamin Mayo at 9to5Mac:
We apologize for any confusion or inconvenience we may have caused for this customer. The issue in question involved a restriction on the customer’s Apple ID that disabled App Store and iTunes purchases and subscription services, excluding iCloud. Apple provided an instant credit for the purchase of a new MacBook Pro, and as part of that agreement, the customer was to return their current unit to us. No matter what payment method was used, the ability to transact on the associated Apple ID was disabled because Apple could not collect funds. This is entirely unrelated to Apple Card.
So this is entirely related to the autopay problem Curtis had and the trade-in program not going according to plan. That is good news for Apple Card users.