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Belgium to sue Apple over AppleCare warranty marketing

updated 03:27 am EST, Tue January 15, 2013

Case is similar to Italian ruling on two-year warranties

Apple's practice of selling AppleCare extended warranties by advertising that it covers the unit for "an additional two years" has once again gotten the company in trouble in Europe, where local laws automatically extend warranties to two years. A lawsuit has been filed in Belgium that mirrors a case Apple lost in Italy over the issue. Apple changed its policy in Italy and paid a fine as a result of the ruling, but hasn't changed practices in all EU countries.

Consumer group "Test-Aankoop/Test-Achats" filed suit against Apple in the Commercial Court of Brussels, saying the iPhone maker is misleading customers by implying that AppleCare is the only way to get more than a standard one-year warranty. While Apple has been seen as wanting to make the warranty uniform across all countries to avoid consumer confusion, the EU has a policy on electronics that automatically extends warranties to two years. As in Italy, the lawsuit implies that Apple deliberately withholds this information in order to help sell the extended warranties, which might seem to be less valuable if it was generally known that customers only gain another year of coverage.

In the Italian case, Apple was ultimately forced to pay a fine of €900,000 (approximately $1.2 million US) along with a later fine of $264,000 for continued misleading. In response, Apple stopped selling AppleCare through its retail branches (first- and third-party) in Italy but does offer the product to Italians online, and did change the language on the site to make clear that AppleCare extends the automatic two-year warranty EU customers receive by default.

Test-Aankoop/Test-Achats had previous demanded that Apple Belgium bring its own policies into line with what the EU requires, but Apple has apparently not complied thus far. Should the company let the action proceed to trial, the Belgian case is likely to be ruled the same way, since the Italian ruling can be cited as precedent.





by MacNN Staff

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  1. Awax

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 08-25-10

    EU mandatory 2 years warranty is from the SELLER and covers problems existing on the device PRIOR to shipping.
    Apple provides a 1 year MANUFACTURER warranty, 90 days support and covers more issues. And AppleCare extend this warranty and support to 2 or 3 years.

    The "prob" for Apple is that their support is stellar and people go to them to seek support and not toward their seller like the EU statutory warranty intended. So, instead of saying to a customer : "piss off and contact your seller, you moron", they say "I can help you with AppleCare".

    Since the Italian issue, Apple has the following page explaining the different warranties, translated in all EU languages:
    Apple (United Kingdom) - Legal - Apple Products and EU Statutory Warranty

    PS: the italian version is not available anymore since Apple stopped selling AppleCare in Italia to avoid any additional issues. Nice job, customer proctection agency, now customers can't extend their warranty.

  1. Ppietra

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 01-12-05

    Originally Posted by AwaxView Post

    EU mandatory 2 years warranty is from the SELLER and covers problems existing on the device PRIOR to shipping.
    Apple provides a 1 year MANUFACTURER warranty, 90 days support and covers more issues. And AppleCare extend this warranty and support to 2 or 3 years.

    The "prob" for Apple is that their support is stellar and people go to them to seek support and not toward their seller like the EU statutory warranty intended. So, instead of saying to a customer : "piss off and contact your seller, you moron", they say "I can help you with AppleCare".

    Since the Italian issue, Apple has the following page explaining the different warranties, translated in all EU languages:
    Apple (United Kingdom) - Legal - Apple Products and EU Statutory Warranty

    PS: the italian version is not available anymore since Apple stopped selling AppleCare in Italia to avoid any additional issues. Nice job, customer proctection agency, now customers can't extend their warranty.


    Awax, the EU warranty covers basically the same problems as the Apple warranty. The fact that it says prior to shipping doesn’t mean that the problems are visible when it is received, it means that you are covered from any the problem that can be associated with some material or manufacturing defect, which is basically what Apple gives in its warranty when it says "Defects arising after" since Apple doesn’t cover bad use, and wear and tear is probably rarely covered!
    The difference is that with Apple’s warranty there won’t be many questions asked, while with the EU warranty the consumer will have a harder time proving that it is the manufacturer fault!

  1. cgc

    Professional Poster

    Joined: 03-25-03

    Apple should not sell their products in Belgium.

  1. hayesk

    Professional Poster

    Joined: 09-17-99

    Originally Posted by cgcView Post

    Apple should not sell their products in Belgium.



    Or Italy because they got sued there. Or China, because they had the iPad trademark issue. Or the US, because a patent troll sued for blah blah.

    Or they could just include the two year warranty and raise the price to account for it.

    I hate extended warranties - it's like gambling. Just charge everyone a little more and give a better warranty.

    Nikon does this right in Canada. They charge more than in the US, but they give you a 5 year warranty on lenses and 2 year warranty on bodies.

  1. cgc

    Professional Poster

    Joined: 03-25-03

    Originally Posted by hayeskView Post

    Or Italy because they got sued there. Or China, because they had the iPad trademark issue. Or the US, because a patent troll sued for blah blah.

    Or they could just include the two year warranty and raise the price to account for it.

    I hate extended warranties - it's like gambling. Just charge everyone a little more and give a better warranty.

    Nikon does this right in Canada. They charge more than in the US, but they give you a 5 year warranty on lenses and 2 year warranty on bodies.



    I'd like to see Apple pull out to see how long it takes for the protests to alter EU law. These types of lawsuits are the result of Apple's success (which is good) but it's also annoying to see. Ultimately, nothing's free and consumers will see prices go up in regions that mandate such things but by then, the politicians who enacted these laws have been reelected or promoted.

  1. Spheric Harlot

    Clinically Insane

    Joined: 11-07-99

    Originally Posted by PpietraView Post

    Awax, the EU warranty covers basically the same problems as the Apple warranty. The fact that it says prior to shipping doesn’t mean that the problems are visible when it is received, it means that you are covered from any the problem that can be associated with some material or manufacturing defect, which is basically what Apple gives in its warranty when it says "Defects arising after" since Apple doesn’t cover bad use, and wear and tear is probably rarely covered!



    This is ENTIRELY incorrect.

    For one, as stated, EU law stipulates coverage by the SELLER. All claims are the SELLERS' responsibility. AppleCare covers devices regardless of where they are purchased.

    For another, AppleCare covers defects that arise at any time during the coverage period. EU law, as mentioned, covers defects extant AT THE TIME OF PURCHASE. The law further states that a defect will be considered "existing at time of purchase" if it shows up within the first six months. After that, it is up to the customer to PROVE that it was a manufacturing, material, or design defect.
    Good luck with that — outside of a class-action lawsuit, there is little chance any individual will be able or willing to put up the funds for that battle.

    So effectively, EU law is a SIX MONTH warranty, and you're at the mercy of the DEALER you bought the device from.

  1. Spheric Harlot

    Clinically Insane

    Joined: 11-07-99

    Originally Posted by cgcView Post

    I'd like to see Apple pull out to see how long it takes for the protests to alter EU law. These types of lawsuits are the result of Apple's success (which is good) but it's also annoying to see. Ultimately, nothing's free and consumers will see prices go up in regions that mandate such things but by then, the politicians who enacted these laws have been reelected or promoted.



    This warranty has been incorporated into prices since January 1st, 2002, and it applies to ALL MANUFACTURED GOODS.

    It's not going to change, either.

    It's slightly bizarre that while this particular law is one case where our elected political representatives actually worked in OUR interest (which is rare enough here, too), you've managed to go painting it as some sort of Demonic Big Government Ploy to Make Everybody Pay More.

    It's really difficult to follow your argument that consumer protection laws designed to give buyers leverage against shady dealers and defective products are somehow a Bad Thing, but then, we're all really confused how guns take precedence over children's lives, and how the ability to stay or become healthy is not a basic citizen's right, regardless of income, so I'll chalk it up to the weird cultural differences between Europe and America.

  1. chas_m

    MacNN Staff

    Joined: 08-04-01

    It would be nice if Apple would just OFFER a two-year warranty, but I suspect the cost ratio goes into negative territory when you do that on expensive electronics, which is why Apple fights this. The EU certainly did not weigh the possible negative factors into that legislation, they were just trying to protect consumers (and as a consumer I appreciate that, BUT).

    Contrary to what ppietra claims, Apple says it DOES still sell AppleCare (at its online store ONLY) in Italy. Basically it's saying "we have to offer a two-year warranty? FINE. We'll just make getting the full THREE years as difficult as possible for you then." So I think Italians (and the EU generally if the courts force Apple to offer this Europe-wide) ultimately lose out a bit in the bigger picture. TANSTAAFL, EU.

  1. Spheric Harlot

    Clinically Insane

    Joined: 11-07-99

    Originally Posted by chas_mView Post

    It would be nice if Apple would just OFFER a two-year warranty, but I suspect the cost ratio goes into negative territory when you do that on expensive electronics, which is why Apple fights this. The EU certainly did not weigh the possible negative factors into that legislation, they were just trying to protect consumers (and as a consumer I appreciate that, BUT).



    Apple isn't "fighting" the EU law, at all. EU statutory warranty has been in place since 2002, and it applies to all manufactured devices. It is not up to any manufacturer to "fight" anything. It is not their choice whether or not to offer it. The POINT OF SALE offers it, and they have no choice. It is the law.

    The European Apple Stores, online and brick-and-mortar, have always honoured the EU warranty, and never contested it, at all.

    These lawsuits were/are simply over the fact that Apple didn't explicitly mention the EU statutory warranty in their sales literature.

    Since Apple have actually added explanatory details to all EU AppleCare pages after the Italian lawsuit, I see no sense at all in this lawsuit, and I doubt it will fly.

  1. Ppietra

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 01-12-05

    Originally Posted by Spheric HarlotView Post

    This is ENTIRELY incorrect.

    For one, as stated, EU law stipulates coverage by the SELLER. All claims are the SELLERS' responsibility. AppleCare covers devices regardless of where they are purchased.

    For another, AppleCare covers defects that arise at any time during the coverage period. EU law, as mentioned, covers defects extant AT THE TIME OF PURCHASE. The law further states that a defect will be considered "existing at time of purchase" if it shows up within the first six months. After that, it is up to the customer to PROVE that it was a manufacturing, material, or design defect.
    Good luck with that — outside of a class-action lawsuit, there is little chance any individual will be able or willing to put up the funds for that battle.

    So effectively, EU law is a SIX MONTH warranty, and you're at the mercy of the DEALER you bought the device from.



    Sorry but you are wrong! I live in an EU country so I do know what I am talking about. The EU warranty covers problems in the equipment for 2 years, if those problems can be attributed to material or manufacturing defects. There is however limited time to report the problem, in my case I have 2 months to report the problem after noticing it, until the end of those 2 years! The time to report varies from country to country!
    It is the responsibility of the seller but since almost every seller is an authorized reseller, and Apple itself sells directly to consumers, in most cases Apple can’t avoid those warranty problems, though it doesn’t make it particularly easy. Almost no seller tries to repair without Apple’s authorization. Apple is probably the only big consumer company in Europe with this issue...

  1. Ppietra

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 01-12-05

    Originally Posted by chas_mView Post

    It would be nice if Apple would just OFFER a two-year warranty, but I suspect the cost ratio goes into negative territory when you do that on expensive electronics, which is why Apple fights this. The EU certainly did not weigh the possible negative factors into that legislation, they were just trying to protect consumers (and as a consumer I appreciate that, BUT).

    Contrary to what ppietra claims, Apple says it DOES still sell AppleCare (at its online store ONLY) in Italy. Basically it's saying "we have to offer a two-year warranty? FINE. We'll just make getting the full THREE years as difficult as possible for you then." So I think Italians (and the EU generally if the courts force Apple to offer this Europe-wide) ultimately lose out a bit in the bigger picture. TANSTAAFL, EU.



    Apple already has to offer a 2 year warranty in Europe, like every other consumer electronics company, there is nothing new. Almost no seller will take the burden of the warranty by itself. The law makes the seller responsible, but the consequence is that the seller will be careful to select products where the manufacturer takes most of the burden! And Apple wants to sell so it takes the burden, though it makes a bit more difficult to repair after the first year. Apple’s practice is a bit different from most big consumer companies, and I must say it is a bit more unfriendly.

  1. Spheric Harlot

    Clinically Insane

    Joined: 11-07-99

    Originally Posted by PpietraView Post

    Sorry but you are wrong! I live in an EU country so I do know what I am talking about. The EU warranty covers problems in the equipment for 2 years, if those problems can be attributed to material or manufacturing defects. There is however limited time to report the problem, in my case I have 2 months to report the problem after noticing it, until the end of those 2 years! The time to report varies from country to country!
    It is the responsibility of the seller but since almost every seller is an authorized reseller, and Apple itself sells directly to consumers, in most cases Apple can’t avoid those warranty problems, though it doesn’t make it particularly easy. Almost no seller tries to repair without Apple’s authorization. Apple is probably the only big consumer company in Europe with this issue...



    I don't know where you're getting your information, but it is confused.

    I worked at an Authorized Apple Reseller in Germany for over eight years. I dealt with the technicalities of this law on a daily basis.

    Read the text I linked to.

    The main problem, which you do not address at all, is that after six months, YOU THE CUSTOMER must PROVE to the SELLER that the issue is his problem. This involves hiring a technical expert to assess the issue and testify in court.
    Your confusion on this issue arises because every Apple product that the EU warranty applies to is covered by Apple's VOLUNTARY one-year MANUFACTURER'S warranty anyway.

  1. Spheric Harlot

    Clinically Insane

    Joined: 11-07-99

    Originally Posted by PpietraView Post

    Apple already has to offer a 2 year warranty in Europe, like every other consumer electronics company, there is nothing new. Almost no seller will take the burden of the warranty by itself. The law makes the seller responsible, but the consequence is that the seller will be careful to select products where the manufacturer takes most of the burden! And Apple wants to sell so it takes the burden, though it makes a bit more difficult to repair after the first year. Apple’s practice is a bit different from most big consumer companies, and I must say it is a bit more unfriendly.



    Due to the fact that the burden of proof to shifts to the consumer six months after purchase, the EU warranty is effectively limited to that time.

    All cases I know of where an actual design issue caused a problem, Apple put into place extended repair or replacement programs without any litigation (power supply wire fraying, MacBook palm rest splintering, original IPod nano scratching), and the material defects cases were either resolved voluntarily (nvidia 9400 MacBook Pros) or after lengthy litigation (iPod nano battery, which, IIRC, was resolved after three or four years).

    Note that in all of those cases, Apple's coverage is at least partially voluntary, as Apple is in NO WAY liable under EU law for machines not purchased directly from them.
    In fact, Apple could even deny coverage to devices bought from them if the customer took it to another dealer for initial repairs (as the law also explicitly states that the SELLER must be given three chances to rectify the problem).

  1. Ppietra

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 01-12-05

    Originally Posted by Spheric HarlotView Post

    I don't know where you're getting your information, but it is confused.

    I worked at an Authorized Apple Reseller in Germany for over eight years. I dealt with the technicalities of this law on a daily basis.

    Read the text I linked to.

    The main problem, which you do not address at all, is that after six months, YOU THE CUSTOMER must PROVE to the SELLER that the issue is his problem. This involves hiring a technical expert to assess the issue and testify in court.
    Your confusion on this issue arises because every Apple product that the EU warranty applies to is covered by Apple's VOLUNTARY one-year MANUFACTURER'S warranty anyway.



    Testify in court!??? Where did you come from!!? Did you treat your customers like that... don’t like it, go to court?
    First of all the law isn’t exactly the same everywhere in Europe, there are nuances (some big ones actually), and I must say where I live it is nothing like what you say, it is the seller who has to prove that it wasn’t a defect in the product (2 years). Obviously the law expects common sense in the relation between seller and customer! EU law defines a minimum, but each country is free to stipulate further guaranties. Many EU countries have a similar law! As you can see Apple’s warranty isn’t better, considering time covered!
    And like I said, Apple is probably the only big company where warranty becomes an issue, unnecessarily I think!

  1. Spheric Harlot

    Clinically Insane

    Joined: 11-07-99

    I take it you live in the Czech Republic, Portugal or Romania? Those are countries where the burden of proof does not shift (as per Apple's information page, linked to above. You should read it.)

    I'm talking about the law in the majority of EU countries, including here in Germany, in Italy, and in Belgium.

    There is common sense, and fairness. I told you what the LAW says.

    I ALSO told you why the law pretty much never applies (because it is superseded by Apple's regular manufacturer's warranty), here.

    If you go to a dealer - any dealer - with a product broken outside of the manufacturer's warranty and demand that they fix it free of charge, they may try to get APPLE to pay for an out-of-warranty repair (which Apple are under absolutely NO obligation to do), and if Apple refuses, they WILL tell you politely but firmly to go **** yourself.

    That is how it works.

    You can then step it up a notch and start discussing the EU warranty, but at that point, you will need to come up with a very plausible explanation for why the product was defective when you bought it. And unless the dealer caves in, meaning he will eat the entire cost of the repair/replacement, your explanation will probably end up having to stand up in court.

    Classic example is an optical drive that dies after a year and a half. I invite you to show me a single dealer in your country that will repair that free of charge once Apple's one-year warranty has expired.

  1. Ppietra

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 01-12-05

    Originally Posted by Spheric HarlotView Post

    Due to the fact that the burden of proof to shifts to the consumer six months after purchase, the EU warranty is effectively limited to that time.

    All cases I know of where an actual design issue caused a problem, Apple put into place extended repair or replacement programs without any litigation (power supply wire fraying, MacBook palm rest splintering, original IPod nano scratching), and the material defects cases were either resolved voluntarily (nvidia 9400 MacBook Pros) or after lengthy litigation (iPod nano battery, which, IIRC, was resolved after three or four years).

    Note that in all of those cases, Apple's coverage is at least partially voluntary, as Apple is in NO WAY liable under EU law for machines not purchased directly from them.
    In fact, Apple could even deny coverage to devices bought from them if the customer took it to another dealer for initial repairs (as the law also explicitly states that the SELLER must be given three chances to rectify the problem).




    That is also not completely true! It depends on the country. The manufacturer might be liable (specially with safety issues), and a customer can go directly to the manufacturer for a repair - depends on the country! Since Apple isn’t physically present in every country it relies on authorized repair shops for that!

  1. Ppietra

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 01-12-05

    Originally Posted by Spheric HarlotView Post

    I'm talking about the law.

    There is common sense, and fairness. I told you what the LAW says.

    I ALSO told you why the law pretty much never applies (because it is superseded by Apple's regular manufacturer's warranty).

    If you go to a dealer - any dealer - with a product broken outside of the manufacturer's warranty and demand that they fix it free of charge, they may try to get APPLE to pay for an out-of-warranty repair (which Apple are under absolutely NO obligation to do), and if Apple refuses, they WILL tell you politely but firmly to go **** yourself.

    That is invariably what happens.

    You can then step it up a notch and start discussing the EU warranty, but at that point, you will need to come up with a very plausible explanation for why the product was defective when you bought it. And unless the dealer caves in, meaning he will eat the entire cost of the repair/replacement, your explanation will probably end up having to stand up in court.

    Classic example is an optical drive that dies after a year and a half. I invite you to show me a single dealer in your country that will repair that free of charge once Apple's one-year warranty has expired.




    Like I said, many times, Apple doesn’t make it particularly easy after one year. No one tries to repair without Apple’s authorization, it is kind of bureaucratic. And that gives Apple a bad image, because other manufacturers don’t do that.
    It will be the seller that will have to come up with a story to avoid the repair. If he refuses then the customer will have to decide what to do.
    The law is very clear... but laws are broken every day!

  1. Spheric Harlot

    Clinically Insane

    Joined: 11-07-99

    Originally Posted by PpietraView Post

    That is also not completely true! It depends on the country. The manufacturer might be liable (specially with safety issues), and a customer can go directly to the manufacturer for a repair - depends on the country! Since Apple isn’t physically present in every country it relies on authorized repair shops for that!



    That is precisely the crux.

    People order stuff online because they can get it a few Euro cheaper, and if it breaks, they need to send it in for repairs – which of course takes *weeks*. So instead, they take it to a local repair center, and Blammo! the EU statutory warranty has expired, because the dealer wasn't given a chance to rectify the problem. It's part of their business plan.

    With stuff bought from Apple directly, it's a little tricky, at least in those places that don't have actual Apple Stores. Apple Support will direct you to an authorized repair center, so technically they may not be shirking on the EU warranty, but since those cases are covered by the regular warranty anyway, this only becomes interesting (and hairy) in cases where three instances of the same problem within two years would warrant replacement/reimbursement from the dealer, after the regular manufacturer's warranty is over.

  1. Spheric Harlot

    Clinically Insane

    Joined: 11-07-99

    Originally Posted by PpietraView Post

    Like I said, many times, Apple doesn’t make it particularly easy after one year. No one tries to repair without Apple’s authorization, it is kind of bureaucratic. And that gives Apple a bad image, because other manufacturers don’t do that.
    It will be the seller that will have to come up with a story to avoid the repair. If he refuses then the customer will have to decide what to do.
    The law is very clear... but laws are broken every day!



    I am talking about countries where the burden of proof reverses after six months.

    NO manufacturer provides free repairs outside of the regular warranty as a matter of course. Nobody does.

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