FRENCH CONNECTION: Man buys iPhone in France, finds out it's no good here

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- For most of human history we didn't have cellphones -- now traveling without one seems inconceivable. They do everything from taking pictures to checking in at the airport. So when a Bay Area man suddenly lost his phone to a mugger in Paris, he took unusual measures to replace it. 7 on Your Side's Michael Finney wound up helping him out.

Bill Brees of San Francisco was having a fine time in Paris.

That is -- until he ran into a scoundrel.

"I was walking back to my AirBNB and just before I got to my street, someone stopped me to ask for directions to the metro," he recalled. Brees pulled out his iPhone to show the man a map of the Paris metro system.

"And that was all it took -- I let my guard down and he grabbed the phone while I was showing it."

The iPhone was gone in a flash.

"I was angry with myself, angry with him..." Brees said.

Brees's insurance would replace the phone, but he needed one now, while he was in France.

So, he decided to get another iPhone -- but just temporarily. "Apple throughout the world has a 14-day return policy," he said

It's true. The policy says you can return an iPhone within 14 days as long as it has original packaging and no damage. So Brees went to a very elegant Apple store in Paris and explained his dilemma.

"I told very clearly to them in Paris I'm not gonna keep this phone... and they said no problem," Brees said.

He bought an iPhone X, kept the receipt, and when he got back to San Francisco, went to the Apple store to return it.

"That's when they said, 'oh no, you had to return this in Paris. It's a Paris model,' " Brees recalled.

To his shock, the Apple store in San Francisco would not accept the iPhone from Paris. He was told he had to take it back to France, in person.

"And I said, I'm not going back to Paris. They said well, it's required. I said nobody told me that. And it's not on the receipt," said Brees.

Brees was now out $1,300 for that French iPhone. He contacted 7 On Your Side. We checked out the return policy on his receipt. It not only has a lot of fine print, but of course it's in French!

"It doesn't say you have to bring it back to Paris," Brees said.

Or does it? We found this clause: "Les produits peuvent etre retourne a vos frais dans tout magasin du pays dans lequel ils ont ete achetes a l'origine". We plugged it into Google translate. It means "Products can be returned at your expense in any store in the country in which they were originally purchased."

Apple's website shows why: it turns out French iPhones are indeed different than American iPhones.

For one thing, they use band frequencies assigned to French cellphone carriers, not U.S. carriers. Also, the power adapter works on European voltage, not U.S. voltage. Besides which, all the packaging and instructions are in French.

Still, no one in France told Brees any of that. So 7 On Your Side contacted Apple. It declined to comment for this story -- but it did refund Brees's money after all.

"I don't need to know why... I want to thank you for the intervention... It really helped!" Brees said

When you're overseas, you can go to a local cellphone carrier and buy a prepaid phone for relatively low prices. It may be a better option than carrying your own phone and paying for an international plan.



Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

Copyright © 2019 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.