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.