Apple Warranty Ads Should Be Examined in EU, Reding Says

Apple Inc.’s advertising of product-warranty practices should be examined by the European Union’s 27 states, the bloc’s justice chief said.

EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding wrote to member countries to ask them to check whether Apple retailers failed to advertise buyers’ right to a minimum two-year warranty for products such as the iPhone and the iPad tablet computer.

“Apple prominently advertised that its products come with a one-year manufacturer warranty but failed to clearly indicate the consumers’ automatic and free-of-cost entitlement to a minimum two-year guarantee under EU law,” Reding said to ministers in the letter, which was obtained by Bloomberg News. “These are unacceptable marketing practices.”

Italy’s competition agency fined Apple 900,000 euros ($1.16 million) in December. The regulator, which also enforces consumer protection rules, said the company misled consumers by “prominently advertising” that its products have a one-year manufacturer warranty, and through the sale of its “AppleCare Protection Plan” warranty extension.

Alan Hely, a spokesman for Cupertino, California-based Apple in London, declined to comment beyond referring to Apple’s EU statutory warranty page on its website. According to that, EU consumer law covers defects in the product at the time of delivery that become apparent for two years after purchase. In addition to that, Apple also offers a one-year limited warranty and the AppleCare protection plan to cover defects arising after the buyer gets the device.

Consumer Protection

Different sanctions exist in EU countries for violations of consumer protection law. While the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, can’t investigate companies over misleading advertising, it can take legal action against a country that fails to enforce EU rules.

Consumer groups in 11 countries, including Italy and Germany, said in March that they had written to Apple or made a complaint to a local consumer agency about the advertising of the company’s warranties.

Der Spiegel earlier reported Reding’s letter to ministers.

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