Apple Silent On Workers Refusing Sale To Farsi Speakers, Talking To CAIR

   on June 21 2012 12:17 PM
The Apple logo inside the newest Apple Store in New York City's Grand Central Station
The Apple (Nasaqq: AAPL) logo in the Apple Store in New York City's Grand Central Station. Reuters

The Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said it's communicating with Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) about a response to a report that some employees have refused to sell iPads and products to customers speaking Farsi, the language of Iran.

Council of American-Islamic Relations representative Ibrahim Hooper confirmed Thursday that his organization is in contact with Apple regarding the allegations and is working to elicit an official statement. However, there was no word about whether those talks have been successful.

The Permanent Iranian Mission to the U.N. in New York said that it couldn't comment on the incident

National Public Radio reported on its blog Wednesday that Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple returned its call to say no comment.

Calls to Apple haven't been returned. The company hasn't issued a statement. An employee of the North Point Mall Apple Store in Alpharetta, Ga., where the incident allegedly took place, said employees weren't authorized to speak to the press.

CAIR says it knows of at least one more case in which customers have been refused service in Apple stores because they spoke Farsi.  CAIR is investigating other possible instances.

One woman, a U.S. citizen and University of Georgia student, said an Apple employee refused to sell her an iPad [last] Thursday after hearing her and a relative talking, the CAIR statement said. An Apple Store manager reportedly cited a policy prohibiting sales to Iran.

When we said 'Farsi, I'm from Iran,' he said, 'I just can't sell this to you. Our countries have bad relations', the woman, Sahar Sabet, said according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution. The store's manager later showed a local TV channel a copy of Apple's policy, which prohibits the export, sale or supply of Apple products to Iran without explicit government approval.

An Apple representative reportedly later apologized to Sabet and told her she could buy the iPad through the company's online store. Apple maintains 363 retail stores in 13 countries, as well as the online channel.

 Apple must revise its policies to ensure that customers do not face discriminatory treatment based on their religion, ethnicity or national origin. If the actions of these Apple employees reflected company policy, that policy must be changed and all employees retrained, CAIR national executive director Nihad Awad said.

Awad noted that not selling embargoed items like iPads or laptops to Farsi speakers would be like not selling the same items to Spanish speakers because they might be from Cuba.

In that case, the individual in question was an Iranian student in the U.S. on a student visa, according to a note on Export Law Blog. However, you can't sell anything to an Iranian in the United States if you have any reason to believe that the item might be exported back to Iran by the purchaser. Moreover, export laws may prohibit the transfer of technology to Iranian citizens regardless of their visa status. Export Law Blog noted that because of an oddity of export law, iPads, iPhones and MacBooks aren't among those items.

Apple is free to sell them away to Iranians in the United States unless, of course, it has reason to believe that the Iranian is going to ship the goods back to Iran, Export Law Blog said.

An open question is who in the Apple hierarchy may have determined whether the company believes Iranian citizens in the U.S. legally intend to export goods to Iran

Apple shares fell $3.69 to to $582.05 in Thursday afternoon trading.

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