Apple’s AppleCare extended warranty program is again under fire in Europe after facing legal challenges from the Italian government in 2011. This time, a Belgian consumer advocacy group has filed a complaint against Apple, claiming that the way it markets the AppleCare program runs afoul of consumer protection laws in the European Union.
European Union consumer laws provide statutory warranty rights for purchases for a minimum of two years from the date that the consumer takes delivery of the product. Apple worldwide offers a one-year warranty, and sells AppleCare at a premium to provide protection for an additional one or two years, depending on the product type.
Consumer groups in Italy and now Belgium argue that Apple misleads its customers by advertising AppleCare as providing an “additional” number of years of warranty. From Apple’s perspective, it is counting up from its worldwide one-year warranty policy, even though the company is required in certain EU countries to provide two years of coverage.
But consumers who are weighing the cost and benefit of purchasing AppleCare can be easily misled into thinking that the service provides one or two years of additional coverage after the expiration of the statutory warranty, the consumer groups argue.
The arguably confusing situation means that AppleCare carries substantially less value in EU countries than it does in other nations without statutory consumer warranties. For example, AppleCare on the iPod only provides one additional year of protection on top of the Apple-provided one-year warranty, for a total of two years, if purchased in the United States. In the EU, a customer purchasing an iPod is granted a statutory two-year warranty without any additional fee. The only benefit offered by AppleCare is two years of telephone support, which is not covered under the statutory warranty. But hardware service and replacement is fully covered during this period.
The Belgian agency, Test-Aankoop/Test-Achats, hopes that its legal pressure against Apple will produce similar results to those in Italy, where Apple was fined €900,000 in a similar situation.
Apple has not yet commented on the complaint, but does have a legal page explaining the warranty process in EU member nations.
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