Apple thought to be company warned over UK store mask policy, says report

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Regent Street (Image credit: Apple)

What you need to know

  • Apple has allegedly been warned by a UK regulator over its blanket mask policy in stores.
  • One report claims that a "popular technology store" named by the commission may have been Apple.
  • The regulator warned a number of companies over mandatory facemask policies which it says are discriminatory against people with disabilities.

A new report claims that Apple may have been amongst a number of companies warned by a UK regulator over its blanket mask policy in retail stores.

Disability News Service states:

Technology giant Apple appears to have been forced by the equality watchdog to admit that it was wrong to eject disabled people from its shops for failing to wear face masks, when government guidance stated that they were exempt from the rules.

In a press release published last week, the UK's Equality and Human Rights Commission stated it was "reminding organisations against blanket policies barring people from accessing services without a facemask." Whilst the regulator said it "fully" supported measures to keep the public and staff safe, it noted there were exemptions from the legal requirement to wear a mask for people with "legitimate reasons" including physical and mental health conditions or for people who need to lip read. The report said it had been made aware of several companies including a "popular technology store":

We have been made aware of a number of companies with policies making it mandatory for customers and staff to wear face-coverings, even when some people were unable to. These included a popular technology store, a luxury department store and a bus company... We have written to the organisations we received complaints about to advise them of their legal obligations and warn them about the risk of discriminating against disabled people.

The report from DNS states Apple "refused to confirm that it was the technology store referred to by the commission", presumably implying it did not deny this either.

The outlet referred to a November report in which two legal firms, one in England and one in Scotland, said they had received "multiple complaints about Apple" because Apple and others "are still preventing disabled customers from entering their premises if they refuse to wear a face covering."

Apple's UK store websites, as per all of its global stores, note face masks as one of five measures to help control the spread of COVID-19 in stores. From Apple's store page FAQ:

Q: Will I have to wear a mask when I visit an Apple Store? A: Yes. Face masks will be required for all our teams and customers while visiting an Apple Store and we will provide them to customers who don't bring their own. N95 masks with valves and masks that do not cover your nose and extend below your chin — such as bandanas — are not permitted at Apple Stores. Replacement masks will be provided as needed.

Whilst it should be stressed that it is not confirmed whether or not Apple is indeed the company involved in this story, its store page does appear to indicate that customers who are unable to wear or are exempt from wearing will be offered "reasonable alternative shopping or support options" including customers being served at the store front, digital assistance, a temporary face shield, or an offer to serve customers without a mask outside of trading hours.

DNS' November report cites a law centre in Glasgow which had received "10 complaints about Apple during the pandemic".

Whilst the regulator itself reportedly declined to confirm the store involved, it did confirm in its report that "the technology company has since agreed to investigate complaints, undertake staff training and update their website to include a reference to exemptions."

Apple stores in England and Wales reopened on April 12 following an easing of lockdown restrictions in the country, with customers able to make reservations for one-to-one sessions, collect online orders, and receive technical support by appointment.

Stephen Warwick
News Editor

Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design. Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple. Follow him on Twitter @stephenwarwick9