Apple faces website blacklist in 'misleading' warranty claims

The iPad and iPhone maker is facing scrutiny and potential ISP blocks over "misleading" warranties on its products.

Credit: Apple

A Brussels investigative magistrate is considering whether to force Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to block Apple's website in the country due to "misleading" consumer warranty information.

Spotted by Tech.EU, Belgian newspapers are reporting that anger over "misleading" warranty practices and information offered by Apple on the warranty life of its products -- including the popular iPad and iPhone product lines -- may result in the tech giant's website and services entering a block list in Belgium.

One publication, DMorgan, claims that the Federal Public Service (FPS) Economy in Belgium went to the judge to discuss measures that could be taken against the tech giant. The judge in question is considering going as far as asking ISPs operating in Belgium to block the website in the interest of "protecting consumers," but no official action has yet been taken.

The complaint, filed a year ago, still has no full-proof solution. Such a block would not only hamper Apple's business in the country, but consumers could potentially find themselves without access to services including iTunes, music purchases, iTunes U and the app store.

If Belgian officials insist on a website block, ISPs including Belgacom, Telenet and Voo would be required to restrict Apple services. The blacklist of blocked websites usually extends only to counterfeit product and torrent search websites -- including, BitSnoop and ExtraTorrent -- as well as proxy websites used to circumvent blocks. 

The core of the problem is that EU law requires a two-year statutory warranty on technology products. Apple, however, only generally offers one year for free. In order to extend warranty on new products beyond a year, customers are encouraged to pay for AppleCare plans.

In the past year, Apple modified its plans to show that EU customers are entitled to two years' warranty protection (.PDF), but Belgian officials are unconvinced this is enough.

This is not the first time Apple has come under fire over its warranty practices in Europe. An investigation by Italian regulators found the company in breach of EU consumer law, and Apple was fined $1.2m as a result. The tech giant appealed and lost.

The European Commission is also scrutinizing in-app purchases offered by companies including Apple and Google. Consumer groups in the U.K., Denmark, Italy and Belgium have raised concerns over the language used by app developers -- "free to download" versus "free to play" -- and believe these language differences may mislead customers in to believing apps do not contain in-app buys.