Apple sued in Belgium over guarantee misconduct

A consumer organization sued Apple because the company did not respond to its demands

By Loek Essers, IDG News Service |  IT Management

The consumer organization also "has the feeling" that Apple instructed the resellers in its distribution network not to inform consumers properly of their legal rights, De Halleux said. His organization noticed that consumers were not informed properly when they sent their own people into shops to test this, he added.

Test-Aankoop wants the court to order Apple to change information given on its website and to order Apple resellers to properly inform consumers of their rights, he said. The consumer organization will use this lawsuit as a test case, if the outcome is successful, it will use similar tactics against other companies, De Halleux said.

Apple stopped selling AppleCare in Italy after the company was handed a ¬900,000 (US$1.15 million) fine by the Italian Antitrust Authority for not providing consumers with enough information about their European Union protected guarantee rights, and pushing its own paid-for warranty instead. The Italian case is used as an example by Test-Aankoop.

The warranty problems reached E.U. level last year when Commissioner Viviane Reding wrote to all 27 member states asking them to "examine closely Apple's advertising of product warranty practices" for any similar misleading behavior. 

At that time, Belgium, Germany, Denmark, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain had filed complaints against Apple with Reding's office.

This inquiry hasn't resulted in an official E.U. probe yet, said Mina Andreeva, Reding's spokeswoman, in an email. "The first step was to bring this to the attention of ministers and see if or what they are doing to enforce the rules," she said, adding that when Reding sent her letter it was far from clear that this was something that was problematic in all E.U. countries.

"We are still in the process of receiving replies and analyzing them. Once we have a complete picture of what is happening in the E.U. countries we will decide if any follow-up is needed," she said. The European Commission is planning to take stock of developments during the European Consumer summit on March 19, when all national consumer organizations meet, she said.

Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, open-source and online payment issues for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

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