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January 15, 2013

Consumer Advocate Sues Apple in Brussels Court for Warranty Confusion

By Ed Silverstein, TMCnet Contributor

Test-Aankoop/Test-Achats – a consumer organization based in Belgium – has filed a lawsuit against Apple (News - Alert) claiming its warranty protection is confusing and illegal under Belgian law.

In a lawsuit which is somewhat similar to a successful legal action in Italy, the consumer group says Apple is misleading consumers about the minimum two-year protection required under EU (European Union) law for electronics devices.

It covers the iPhone (News - Alert), iPod and iPad.

Apple products feature a one-year warranty. Beyond that, the company encourages customers to purchase the AppleCare Protection Plan or AppleCare+, according to The Next Web, but is not clear to consumers that the products are also covered for at least two years by the company under EU law.

In 2011, Apple was ordered to pay about $1.2 million by the Italian government for similar concerns. Apple tried to appeal the order, unsuccessfully, and was forced to pay an additional $264,000, news reports said. It also had to change its warranty-related documents.

Italian regulators required that Apple had to include part of its ruling on a website, and include “details of the two-year guarantee to its AppleCare plan,” according to TMCnet.

Meanwhile, consumer groups in Portugal may file a similar lawsuit as well.

Test-Aankoop/Test-Achats has collaborated with 10 other groups or offices in Europe over Apple warranties.

The lawsuit was filed in the Commercial Court of Brussels. 

Test-Aankoop/Test-Achats said in a statement it is “confident of a positive outcome” and wants to see contracts “revised so that they are accessible and understandable for the average consumer.”

In its explanation of why Apple appears reluctant to change AppleCare, TechCrunch said, “likely a lot” could be at stake.

“Added warranties are much higher profit than gadgets themselves, since many consumers never take advantage of their services at all, more than compensating for the few who do redeem them for expensive repairs or replacements,” TechCrunch added. “That’s why Apple isn’t moving to change its practices in the EU for anything short of a court order to do so.”

An Apple spokesperson in London didn’t immediately offer comment to Bloomberg News Service about the new lawsuit.

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Edited by Braden Becker

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