Apple in Hot Water in Europe. Again.
Hearing in Italy about Apple only offering 1-year guarantee when a 2-year guarantee is an automatic and free-of-cost entitlement within the EU.

In a hearing today, Apple challenges an Italian ruling which the American tech giant was fined €900,000 for, stating it is only offering a one-year warranty. European Law requires manufacturers to cover their products for a minimum of two years, and by only offering one year, Apple violates this regulation.

In addition to the legal action in Italy, consumer groups across 11 European countries, including Germany, The Netherlands and Spain, have sent letters to national regulators to get Apple to rectify its position on the guarantees. Due to the way the consumer rights are organized in Europe, every country has a slightly different implementation of the European warranty guideline. The consequence is that some of the national consumer groups have announced that if Apple doesn’t respond in a timely and satisfying way they will go to court following the Italian example.

The issue is made worse because Apple sells a package, called AppleCare Protection Plan, which extends their product warranty to three years, effectively making users pay a premium for a service which should be part of the price anyway.

Whenever you buy a product in the EU you are automatically entitled to a minimum of a 2-year guarantee, so in theory any Apple user could force their reseller to repair a defective product for free within that period, even if Apple only offers a 1-year guarantee. Apple is pushing customers to buy its 3-year protection plan without letting them know that the product is technically covered for a period of 2 years.

Monique Goyens, Director General of the European Consumer Organisation commented:
“Consumers are entitled to clear and unambiguous information on all product characteristics, including the legal and commercial guarantees. In a joint effort, consumer organisations across Europe are calling on Apple to bring their unfair practices to an end. In the EU, consumers are entitled to a minimum 2-year legal guarantee. Consumers should not be misled and confused as to fundamental EU consumer rights because a company wants to sell their commercial warranty services. This case is even more important as it concerns such an outstanding market leader whose practices have a broad impact.”
(Emphasis added by EuroTech)

Apple seems to take the route that most large US corporations took before in Europe. Running ahead until someone tries to stop them. Even if this might work in the US, where large corporations have quite a bit of leeway, the European Union has already shown that it is not intimidated by the size of a company.

The European Union demonstrated its determination when it threatened to stop Microsoft from selling Windows within the EU unless it gave users a choice of browsers. Even though many saw this as something which was just an effort to make a point at the time, nowadays we all benefit from the much better browser selection thanks to this decision. In 2008 the EU made Microsoft pay a hefty fine of 900 million Euro for disrupting the market by withholding technical information.

Do you think that European politicians are right to intervene to protect customers or should the market regulate itself?

Author: +Richard Muscat Azzopardi

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