Apple brought to heel in fight for the right to warranty

Apple has reached a deal with a Belgian consumer group that will see it forced to be clearer about what warranties they are entitled to by law and the extras that Cupertino offers.
Written by Martin Gijzemijter, Contributor

Belgian consumer organisation Test-Aankoop has successfully forced Apple to comply with Belgian legislation on product warranties. 

The organisation sued Apple in 2012, claiming that Cupertino was violating Belgian law with its warranty policy. "Every company must respect the rights of consumers, even a giant like Apple. However, there was something seriously wrong with the information issued by Apple and its distributors, in particular regarding its policy on warranties stipulated by law and manufacturers own warranties," Test-Aankoop says on its website.

The devil's in the detail

According to Test-Aankoop, Apple deliberately confused customers by providing incomplete information about the range of warranties available to them. Under European law, manufacturers must offer consumers two years of warranty on their products for free.

However, Apple was only providing its own manufacturer's warranty — lasting one year — which customers could extend by another two or three years if they bought a separate Apple Care plan.

In March 2012, Test-Aankoop joined forces with 10 others consumer organisations in Europe with the aim of trying to force Apple to comply with national and European laws on warranties.

In its lawsuit, Test-Aankoop demanded that Apple revised all of its documentation online concerning warranties, and that the company should clearly explain the statutory warranties consumers can expect in Belgium when they buy a piece of Apple kit.

In addition, the group wanted Apple to revise the structure and length of all contract documents to make them more accessible and comprehensible to the average consumer. 

On its website, Test-Aankoop states that it has now reached an agreement with Apple, under which Apple will comply with Belgian warranty legislation.

Although Apple has not commented on the matter, the consumer organisation claims the company has promised to explain what statutory warranties consumers can expect, as well as how that relates to Apple's own AppleCare Protection Plan.

In addition, Apple will clarify what a one, two or three-year AppleCare plan covers exactly.

As a result of the agreement, Apple has also revised the terms and conditions in Apple stores and will inform its distributors about the statutory warranties and demand that they in turn inform the consumer about their rights regarding that warranty.

Battle far from over

Test-Aankoop says it's extremely happy it's been able to reach an agreement with Apple, but that the battle is far from over.

"We will do everything in our power to ensure that the promises will be kept, but there is much more to fight for, as warranty issues are at the top of the list of complaints we receive. In order to resolve this issue, we are trying to get the statutory warranty period extended from two to five years."

The organisation did not yet disclose how it is planning to achieve this.

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