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Belgian watchdog barks at Apple: Take care when you flog that warranty

EU consumers need to know their rights

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A Belgian consumer group is taking Apple to court for providing customers with "unclear" information on product guarantees.

By law, all electronics sold in Europe are required to have a two-year warranty. But Apple sells its own extended warranty, AppleCare Protection Plan, which offers an extension to its one-year limited warranty. The consumer group, Test Achats, alleges that Apple fails to properly inform consumers of their warranty rights in an attempt to sell its own AppleCare.

The Test-Achats group said it had has received numerous complaints about Apple's method of selling its warranty products. An official complaint to Apple in collaboration with 10 other European consumer groups in March 2012 received no reply from Apple, according to a blog by the group. As a result, Test Achats announced today that it has brought a court action against Apple.

The group alleged that the information about guarantees on Apple's website "singularly lacked clarity and was incomplete on several points", and claimed Apple's website linked to more documents that were far more complicated than was necessary.

Checking out the Belgian online Apple Store we note that the page on AppleCare reads:

Each Mac, iPod, iPhone and monitor comes with free technical phone assistance for 90 days [..] and a limited guarantee of a year. AppleCare Protection Plan allows you to prolong this service cover ..

A footnote at the bottom of the page includes a link that leads to a separate page which contains a table which details current EU law regarding product guarantees.

However, both the Belgian and UK Apple Support home pages provide better information - with details about the two-year guarantee displayed more prominently, above the fold.

In its complaint, the Belgian group cited a successful lawsuit on just this issue against Apple in Italy in 2011, where Apple was forced to pay a €900,000 fine and permanently alter its website.

Needless to say, Apple has not replied to our request for comment. ®

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