updated 11:08 am EDT, Mon October 1, 2012
European Commission limited in its own power to affect situation
The European Union's Justice Commissioner, Viviane Reding, has asked the 27 countries in the Union to look into Apple's warranty policies, Bloomberg reports. Letters sent to the countries specifically ask that they check whether Apple retailers have failed to advertise that customers have a right to a two-year warranty. "Apple prominently advertised that its products come with a one-year manufacturer warranty but failed to clearly indicate the consumers’ automatic and free-of-cost entitlement to a minimum two-year guarantee under EU law," the letters read. "These are unacceptable marketing practices."
Apple does have a notice about EU warranties on its website, but critics have charged that the company otherwise gives the impression that the only warranty coverage is the same one-year variety as in the US. This may push people to buy a two-year AppleCare package, even though in reality this just offers some perks that the EU-mandated warranty doesn't. Apple claims for instance that the EU warranty only covers defects at time of delivery, instead of any problems that might arise afterwards.
The letters are necessary because the European Commission is relatively limited in its power. It can't investigate any allegations of misleading advertising; it can, however, take actions against countries that don't enforce EU rules.
The crackdown on Apple began last December, when Italy fined Apple 900,000 euros (about $1.16 million). The country's competition agency accused Apple of misleading people by "prominently advertising" the one-year warranty, while simultaneously selling them on AppleCare. Portugal is also looking into Apple's warranty practices.