Did Apple Dodge A Powder Keg In Europe With Italian Warranty Case?


CC-licensed, thanks to Andrew* on Flickr.

Although many EU consumer laws already guarantee twice as much protection, Apple can continue to rip off customers there by selling AppleCare extended warranties.

Lawyer Carlo Piana told Cult of Mac that although Apple lost its appeal over fines for unfair business practices in an Italian court, that probably won’t affect Apple’s stance in the rest of the EU-27, although consumer laws are “harmonized” across member states.

Apple came under fire from Italian antitrust watchdogs by offering its standard one-year warranty for new products to Italian customers and then selling AppleCare warranties. Italian consumers are already covered for two years, but the brochures selling the service (with what looks like a condom packet on the cover) offered them “peace of mind” with “extended warranties.”

Italian judges will hand down a ruling on the case in May. In the mean time, Apple must pay about $1.2 million in fines (900,000 euro) and add a note to the boxes of coveted iProducts stating that Italian buyers are already protected by a two-year warranty.

Piana, who was directly involved in the first wave of disputes from the Italian Antitrust Authority over paid extended warranties at big box consumer stores, says it’s about time.

“There were many concerns about Apple’s behavior, since a consumer is entitled to receive a free repair or replacement, without buying complicated care plans, within two years,” Piana told Cult of Mac via email.  “If you tell a consumer that if they buy the policy they are ‘covered for three years,’ but don’t tell them that for two years they would be covered anyway, it’s not exactly transparent.”

Meanwhile, Apple can continue to hock AppleCare in Italy  – and the rest of Europe.

Piana added that the Italian Antitrust Authority tends to be very strict about these murky warranties, from what’s written on the box to how employees upsell these extras to customers who may not know their rights.

“Writing on the box really isn’t enough,” Piana said. “The information must be clear and the consumer must be correctly informed at the time of sale, by the staff. Our consumer code is clear about that.”

While the Italian case may not affect Apple across Europe yet, trouble may be brewing: consumer groups in 11 countries recently asked Apple to be clearer about guarantees, threatening action against the Cupertino company.

Hat tip TNW