Belgium watchdogs: Apple is 'deaf to demands' over consumer rights

Belgium watchdogs: Apple is 'deaf to demands' over consumer rights

Summary: A Belgian consumer group has decided enough is enough, and plans to see Apple in court over consumer rights.

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TOPICS: Apple, Legal
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apple Belgium watchdog consumer rights warranty applecare

Accusing Apple of a 'misleading' and 'illegal' AppleCare warranty policies, a Belgian consumer rights group will be taking the tech giant to court.

The Cupertino,. Calif. firm has come under fire after allegations were made that AppleCare, Apple's warranty system for products including the iPad and iPhone, does not conform to European law. As a result, Belgian consumer watchdog Test-Aankoop/Test-Achats has filed a complaint against the company (Dutch).

European consumer law states that within the European Union, two years' warranty must be provided for products free of charge. However, for customers elsewhere, AppleCare has to be paid for after the first year -- and questions have been raised over whether Apple's marketing and contractual practices are an attempt to mislead consumers who do not realize this entitlement.

Apple has got itself into trouble previously, after business methods were employed which potentially kept European consumers in the dark over the EU's warranty regulations. The firm was fined $1.2 million by an Italian antitrust watchdog in 2011 after the group ruled that Apple had failed to properly inform its customers of their rights, a judgement Apple later appealed and lost.

Test-Aankoop/Test-Achats says within the filing that "major problems" have been found in the information Apple provides to its Belgian customers, and the lucrative "AppleCare Protection Plan" extension of two or three years goes against the legal guarantee that European law is meant to enforce.

This is not the first time the Belgian group have taken Apple to task. In March last year, the consumer watchdog joined forces with 10 European consumer organizations to complain about Apple's practices, but says that the firm remained "deaf to demands," which has rendered the court case necessary.

Test-Aankoop/Test-Achats says it is confident of a positive outcome of the case, which will be brought before the President of the Commercial Court of Brussels.

Topics: Apple, Legal

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19 comments
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  • Socialism

    It is not a function of government to force companies to provide warranties of a particular length. This is just the standard government overreach that we've come to expect out of Europe. Companies should be free to offer whatever warranties they choose or no warranty, and let the buyer beware. It's called "freedom", Europe. Look it up.
    FDanconia
    • Not socialism...

      It has nothing to do with socialism. Europe just happens to care about its citizens and gives them basic rights...
      wright_is
      • socialism

        All Apple has to do is to put a higher retail price. Say 15%. And everyone should be happy.
        fairplay500
      • I'm sure many said the same when under a monarchy....

        The EU appoints it's lawmakers. The citizens have no control over who the legislating body is, unless this has changed?
        So is this who you mean when you say "Europe" cares about it's citizens"? "Europe" in this case being the non elected lawmaking body? How can the "citizens" know their agenda when they have no direct control over who makes up this body that dictates law?
        xuniL_z
    • Freedom?

      Its not a law of a standard government its the law for all the EU. And luckily there is such a law, because otherwise big international company's would exploit consumers.
      And Europe has more freedom than most of you think.
      Quote Benjamin Franklin:
      "WITHOUT Freedom of Thought, the can be no such Thing as Wisdom; and no such Thing as publick Liberty, without Freedom of Speech; which is the Right of every Man, as far as by it, he does not hurt or control the Right of another"
      And this is one of the biggest freedom a man can get. And Europe is where you can find that more than anywhere else on the world imo.
      Freedom of the common man, not of the big internationals company's who have already a lot of power.
      Jrol
      • I hate to say this...

        but obviously proper spelling is not found in Europe. "publick"??

        I find it funny when someone talks about the "power" of a multi-national company but not the good it does for the world, the great paying jobs it creates, even in Europe and the opportunity for people in the free world to build their business around said company if desired and have your own success to do what you like with it. Give it all to the poor, it's up to you, and that is true freedom.
        There is nothing stopping you from being the owner and CEO of a large multinational company. In the U.S. that is a freedom which is attainable by anyone willing to put in the sweat equity. When you become too reliant on the government to take care of you, then sire that does lean toward socialism. We have many in the U.S. on welfare and SSI, which is there as a safety net. But what have they really gained?
        You paint an "Us vs Them" picture when in fact, with true freedom, there is no "Us and Them". It's what you choose to do with your life and what your lot in life is has no limitations beyond your ambition. That is what capitalism is, it's not a system that pays for and creates evil large companies. They are created by people just like you...
        xuniL_z
        • Nicht Jeder

          hat Englisch als Muttersprache.

          Not everybody in Europe has English as their first language. Give the guy a break. And I've seen far worse abuses of the English language from English and American people.

          There is a difference between doing good, in providing jobs, and ripping off customers. That is why consumer lobbies exist, thankfully the EU listens to them and tries to temper the powers of companies, large and small, to ensure that they don't abuse the citizens.

          America seems to be the other way round, whatever big business wants must be right, the Constitution be damned!
          wright_is
    • Its not called "freedom" but libertinism.

      Anyway, 2y of mandatory warranty is good. Its easy to understand, and to enforce.

      What Apple (and ANY) company is free to do is to provide THEIR guarantees. For whatever price they wish.

      BUT mandatory warranty is there MAINLY for ensuring that company SELL RIGHT PRODUCT, exactly matching what was advertised.
      przemoli
    • what fdanconia doesnt realize

      Is that these laws come into existence for a reason. Look at the counterparts in the US and learn how they came about. It wasnt due to socialism.

      Every time i see an ignoramus like yourself blaming socialism for stuff like this i feel compelled to point it out. Grab a book. It doesnt bite. Come out of your hole.

      And please stop talking bs in these forums
      Master Wayne
      • The reason

        Yes, these laws come into existence for a reason. The reason is massive misunderstanding of Capitalism, freedom, and rights. Oh, and power-lust. There are a lot of people whose livelihoods depend on creating a bogeyman and promising to protect people from him. That's what the haters of businessmen have been doing for 150 years or so.

        We do need government to protect us from outright fraud (fraud is a taking of property without consent), but consumer protection laws are unnecessary and a violation of the right to free trade. Consumer protection laws are not Socialism per se, but they are born of the same mentality and philosophy.

        Large corporations have no power whatsoever, if you understand what power is. Power is the ability to force people to do things against their will. Only government has power. Corporations have to convince you to buy their products voluntarily. It is only when corporations and governments work together against the interest of the public that corporations can be said to have power. But the source of that power is the corrupt government officials they are in league.

        Oh, and I've read quite a few books.
        FDanconia
        • Not haters

          They is no hate for business here, there is a balance between businesses and consumers. Given that many products are expected to last decades (TVs, fridges, irons, toasters, coffee machines etc.), expecting any new product, that isn't by design disposable (such as the old 1 shot party cameras), to last 2 years isn't really that much.

          If I spend $1,000 on a product, I expect it to last several years, before it breaks down.

          Most other international businesses seem to have read the local laws, *before* they start selling in the EU and comply with local legislation.

          Allegedly*, Leatherman was one company that didn't read the fine print of German law. They advertised the products with a lifetime guarantee, when challenged, they said that they would service the product or replace it for free, until the owner died. That wasn't good enough for the Germans, so they had to put a limit on the Guarantee, so they wrote 10 years into their guarantee document, but will still service the product for the life of the owner.

          It is a common tale I hear from my German friends, but I haven't seen it reported anywhere.

          Such "abuse" of the law by Apple makes me less likely to buy Apple products, on the other hand, hearing the Leatherman story makes me trust the brand more...
          wright_is
    • So,

      You're saying there are NOT any laws in the US for warranties? Really? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magnuson%E2%80%93Moss_Warranty_Act
      benched42
  • It is the law

    As much as I hate the EU, it is the law of the land so if a company wants to do business there it should abide by it or simply leave.
    statuskwo5
  • Apple is greedy and its customers are mugs

    *Apple is deliberately selling its customers something which they already have a right to by law.* Apple is willfully charging its customers for something which is meant to be free because it is already their legal right.

    This is a further reminder of Apple's corporate greed. It's also a reminder of the comical gullibility of Apple's customers, who in most cases implicitly must be mugs to choose Apple products anyway.

    "Apple markets its warranties in a manner which doesn't properly explain consumer rights to Belgian gadget shoppers"

    This is a polite legalistic way of saying it.
    Tim Acheson
    • Right, right

      And your company Microsoft is not greedy? Please. I hope Ballmer is giving you a solid payceck for the FUD you write here.

      Let's say a perosn goes into an Apple store in Belgium and buys an iPhone 5. They have - without purchasing AppleCare - a 2 year warranty provided to them by law. Someone at the Apple Store then sells them an extension with AppleCare... an extension that by law begins the third year of ownership not the first or second as those are already covered by law.

      How is that greedy? Apple does NOT make anyone buy AppleCare if they do not want it. No one at the Apple Store is pointing a gun to someone's head and telling them they MUST buy AppleCare ro an Apple product.

      "Apple markets its warranties in a manner which doesn't properly explain consumer rights to Belgian gadget shoppers" - and why should they have to explain Belgian law to anyone?
      athynz
  • New legal team required

    Apples legal team are useless. They have already been through this before. Why not just include Apple Care as standard in Europe?
    Adam Geo
    • Apple's new mascot.

      Captain Eugene H. "Armor Abs" Krabs
      xuniL_z
  • The iSheeps are coming...

    ...for them, freedom is bowing to the will of their Mother Company.
    And so will be, forever.
    acosta@...
  • Standards for Warranties

    Having grown up and been in the business world before US Federal and State uniform warranty legislation and later a lawyer, I find it interesting some of you want to be so libertarian in this area. Do not get me wrong as I am a libertarian but feel that a purpose of government is to provide protection to its citizens when there is an unfair or unreasonable advantage by 1 party. I especially remember the pre-law lifetime warranty; many companies were vaque and literally warrantees the product until it died.

    In the US I know manufacturers would prefer a uniform Federal law as States differ making both disclosures and creating jurisdictional issues such as whether the warranty is controlled based on the place and time of purchase or the situs or date of defect. If you buy the product in Florida while vacationing and then go back go NJ which State law controls? Or, if a resident of FL and then move to California which controls? The States are not consistent in their courts as to the outcome. On the side of States, many have consumer protection agencies to handle disputes that if there was only Federal law, would either be resolved in courts or by way of complex Federal bureaucracies.
    BrianLevyEsq