Apple modified its product warranty program in the European Union late last week in response to an Italian legal defeat in late March resulting from differences between Apple’s standard warranty programs and enhanced consumer protection laws present in the EU.
The change to Apple’s program, applicable only in the EU, clarifies that all included warranties on products sold by Apple, including non-Apple-branded accessories, are valid for at least two years (with significant exceptions, outlined below), with AppleCare still available to cover the third year of certain products for an additional cost.
Apple’s change in direction was prompted by the company’s unsuccessful appeal of a US$1.2 million fine by the Italian government on March 22. By offering only a one year warranty on products sold by Apple directly to consumers, even though EU law requires a minimum of two years, Apple “mislead” consumers about the benefits and necessity of its AppleCare extended warranty program, according to the Italian court as it interpreted EU consumer protection law.
“When you purchase Apple products, European Union consumer law provides statutory warranty rights in addition to the coverage you receive from the Apple One-Year Limited Warranty and the optional AppleCare Protection Plan,” Apple now states on the websites of EU member nations.
Due to discrepancies between the language of Apple’s warranty and EU consumer law, however, many consumers are still upset with Apple and unsure about the warranty status of their products.
EU law states that the required warranty only covers defects that are “present when customer takes delivery.” Apple’s warranty, however, covers defects present, “after customer takes delivery.” As Apple states in footnote 1 of its EU Warranty Page:
In most EU member states, consumers may only claim for defects that were present on delivery. There are some exceptions including Czech Republic and Romania. The burden to prove that the defect existed on delivery generally shifts to the consumer after the expiry of a period of 6 months from date of delivery. Examples of countries where the burden of proof does not shift include Czech Republic, Portugal and Romania.
The prima facie result of Apple’s interpretation is that nothing truly changes as a result of Apple’s warranty modifications. By Apple’s definition, only defects actually present at the time of delivery will extend the warranty to two years, but, if that’s the case, the customer would already qualify for service under Apple’s one-year warranty. The only beneficiaries of the new policy, as currently worded, would be those consumers who notice a defect at delivery but fail to seek a repair or replacement within the first year.
EU’s case law, however, has declared that general defects arising within the first two years of ownership to be a result of the manufacturing process and thus present upon delivery. This interpretation may force Apple to further modify its warranty program in order to avoid additional legal action in other EU member states.