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Apple Sued By Belgian Consumer Association For Not Applying EU Warranty Laws 290

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the regulation-is-only-ok-if-it-benefits-us dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Following the recent Italian case, Apple is now being sued by the Belgian consumer association 'Test-Achats' (french/dutch website) for not applying the EU consumer protection laws by only giving a one-year warranty on its products. At the same time, Apple is not only refusing to give the mandatory two-year warranty but is also selling the additional year of warranty with its Applecare products. If the consumer association wins its case, Apple could be forced to refund Applecare contracts to its Belgian customers while providing the additional year of warranty for free."
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Apple Sued By Belgian Consumer Association For Not Applying EU Warranty Laws

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  • So wait . . . (Score:5, Insightful)

    by greenreaper (205818) on Monday March 19, 2012 @11:14PM (#39410285) Homepage Journal
    If they lose, basically all they have to do is do what they should have been doing already? No fine or anything? I'm surprised more people aren't trying to get away with it.
    • Re:So wait . . . (Score:4, Informative)

      by Idbar (1034346) on Monday March 19, 2012 @11:42PM (#39410409)
      Nah. They probably just charge more in the EU to cover the extra year of warranty.
      • Re:So wait . . . (Score:4, Insightful)

        by FireFury03 (653718) <slashdot@CHEETAHnexusuk.org minus cat> on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @02:42AM (#39411079) Homepage

        Nah. They probably just charge more in the EU to cover the extra year of warranty.

        Doesn't work like that. Products are sold based on what the customers are willing to pay, not based on the underlying cost of the product. So unless the extra year of warranty significantly changes what customers are willing to pay, the prices will stay the same.

        • Re:So wait . . . (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Austerity Empowers (669817) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @03:19AM (#39411229)

          Customers are willing to pay their own kidneys for apple products. Maybe they'll toss in an extra spleen too.

          • by Chrisq (894406)

            Customers are willing to pay their own kidneys for apple products. Maybe they'll toss in an extra spleen too.

            I'm an android fanboi you insensitive clod. Apple will get nothing but bile from me.

          • by FireFury03 (653718) <slashdot@CHEETAHnexusuk.org minus cat> on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @04:09AM (#39411397) Homepage

            Customers are willing to pay their own kidneys for apple products. Maybe they'll toss in an extra spleen too.

            If Apple thought that their customers would pay an extra spleen don't you think they'd be charging it already?

            • by AmiMoJo (196126)

              If Apple thought that their customers would pay an extra spleen don't you think they'd be charging it already?

              That's what the extended warranty and accessories are for. People with a spare spleen burning a hole in their abdomen have a wide range of supplementary Apple products to chose from.

            • but yeah, I think they would.

              They could even redirect some of the ire unto the law and government itself by simply stating that now all new Apple products come with three years Applecare. There are all sorts of marketing buzzwords and such that they can and will employ. Then you can turn around and watch forums erupt with people complaining about the cost up against those who say "its for your best interest" and like ... and eventually everyone will just accept the new base price.

    • Re:So wait . . . (Score:5, Informative)

      by Mr. Underbridge (666784) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @12:41AM (#39410647)

      If they lose, basically all they have is a free loan for the amount of the Applecare contracts that they have to refund? No fine or anything? I'm surprised more people aren't trying to get away with it.

      Modified that a bit there. Indeed, the worst case scenario is that you get to take people's money and effectively get an interest-free loan if you have to give it back. Assuming that a lot of people don't apply for the refund, there's that too. Best case scenario is you get away with it if you don't get sued.

      So yeah, where's the deterrent?

      • That was my thought too, but then I figured the legal fees might effectively count as interest.
      • Re:So wait . . . (Score:5, Informative)

        by AmiMoJo (196126) <[ten.3dlrow] [ta] [ojom]> on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @03:21AM (#39411237) Homepage

        Generally speaking in most EU countries the law is restorative, i.e. it aims to put things back as they would otherwise have been. Hence there is usually not a punitive fine unless the regulator imposes, which I'd say is a distinct possibility in this case.

        Also we usually don't have to apply for this type of refund, it will be automatic.

        • by JAlexoi (1085785)
          Civil law, you mean. Unless there is a very concrete case of damages, Apple will not have to pay out to individuals. Being fined, is a question of the law in Belgium.
    • by Ihmhi (1206036)

      This is why fines don't work. They need to be severe enough to factor in the profit motive.

      Let's say a tech company made a laptop without a certain safety device in it and violated EU regs as a result. They are fined 110% of the profits they made from that product while it was violating regulations (so it isn't even economical to say "at least it evened out at cost" - it's a measurable loss). Get fines like that in corporate law and this shit will stop post haste.

      tl;dr fines don't actually lose a company en

    • Re:So wait . . . (Score:4, Interesting)

      by mrvan (973822) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @05:29AM (#39411629)

      I'm not a lawyer, and certainly not a Belgian one, but as far as I understand this is a civil case. In civil cases, the rules for evidence are much more lenient compared to criminal cases (eg less formal requirements and preponderance of evidence compared to very strict evidence rules and a full burden of proof on the accuser). For that reason, the outcome of civil suits is compensation and restoration, not punishment.

      If you think civil cases should result in punitive sanctions, think about American music industry. They (ab)use the civil court system to sue infringers, threatening with statutory punitive damages. In (most of?) the EU, you can sue for copyright infringement, but the maximum damages are the actual and provable damages caused by the sued party.

      Or did you want punitive damages only for the "bad guys"... that would make for some interesting legislation :-)

  • Test-Achats (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Avarist (2453728) on Monday March 19, 2012 @11:16PM (#39410291)
    As a Belgian I've seen Test-Achats do many very good things in the name of the consumers to protect them over time. It's no surprise either that not everything that gets accepted in the US gets through in Europe. My question tho would be if the US has anything similar that actively defends the consumers? Non-governmental that is.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      My question tho would be if the US has anything similar that actively defends the consumers? Non-governmental that is.

      Unfurtunately there are too many f*ckwits who believe everything they are told by the 1%-ers ["giving good warranties would be bad for big companies which means it would be bad for Americans"] and only vote on the basis of whether their candidate supports killing live people (AKA "execution") or unborn entities (AKA "abortion") or how the candidate thinks that life was created (or evolved)

    • Re:Test-Achats (Score:4, Informative)

      by sg_oneill (159032) on Monday March 19, 2012 @11:55PM (#39410477)

      I think we need something here in australia too. I've had a long running dispute with apple for "cancelling" my one year warranty over what it claims is water damage (but was confirmed by a third party repairer to not be water damage at all) , when australian law is really specific that you cant actually cancel warranty unless damage is *caused* by user misuse. The govt body in charge of such things here has acknowledged that I'm in the right after investigating but pretty much said they'd probably need a bunch more cases to be worth taking them to court over it.

      Also they by law have to sell end users spare-parts once the warranty has ended, but they dont, and thats a big no-no.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Try making at the Small Claim tribunal or court of your state.

        More information here:
        http://www.abio.org.au/abioweb/ABIOWebSite.nsf/0/77d81e601100bb8eca256d56004279d9?OpenDocument

      • Re:Test-Achats (Score:5, Informative)

        by Ambvai (1106941) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @02:29AM (#39411025)

        I remember this consumer group did this thing for the first iPhone after a rash of complaints where Apple rejected warranty claims, citing water damage. In an attempt to prove that rejecting claims based on faulty sensors, they bought a new iPhone from an Apple store on a day with near 100% humidity. When they cracked it open, the moisture-sensitive tabs were already triggered.

        I can't find the exact same story, but here's something that covered pretty much the same thing. http://consumerist.com/2010/08/can-high-humidity-void-your-iphones-warranty.html [consumerist.com]

    • by dacarr (562277)
      There are a few agencies.

      Better Business Bureau has a small amount of clout, but is a membership agency; moreover, membership is not compulsory. There are other mmebership agencies that do similar things for its members, that are proprietary to certain functions: Automobile Association of America (AAA, or "Triple A") does things along the lines of hotels, mechanics, that sort of thing, that are held to certain standards (members join for roadside assistance benefits and discounts, among other things; b

  • EU wide? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Formalin (1945560) on Monday March 19, 2012 @11:24PM (#39410333)

    If the consumer association wins it's case, Apple could be forced to refund Applecare contracts to it's Belgian customers while providing the additional year of warranty for free.

    Wouldn't they have to honour it in all of the EU, being EU law..?

    I'm rather surprised they have been getting away with this, as it is. I thought EU was pretty strict with consumer rights, and would deal with it directly (as opposed to this independent organisation suing). Hrmm...

    • Re:EU wide? (Score:4, Informative)

      by klingens (147173) on Monday March 19, 2012 @11:33PM (#39410367)

      They do. Consumer protection associations all over the EU are working on it in pretty much every member country.
      However, the EU only decides on directives, to put these into law, each member country has to write their own law to comply with their own constitution and other legal principles separately. Therefore to stop such an infringement, every country has to have its own lawsuit or other compliance process to rectify transgressions against a EU decision.

    • Re:EU wide? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by MtHuurne (602934) on Monday March 19, 2012 @11:37PM (#39410387) Homepage

      Wouldn't they have to honour it in all of the EU, being EU law..?

      As far as I know, most "EU law" is actually EU guidelines that are put into national laws by the member states. So the member states will have very similar laws, but it's not a single law that is applied to the entire EU.

      In the case of Apple's warranty, there was an item about this yesterday in a Dutch consumer rights TV program (Radar). They said there was a lawsuit in Italy about this exact same issue and Apple lost there. So it's likely Apple will lose similar suits in other EU countries, but separate lawsuits are needed for each country.

      • Re:EU wide? (Score:5, Funny)

        by jtownatpunk.net (245670) on Monday March 19, 2012 @11:58PM (#39410493)

        As far as I know, most "EU law" is actually EU guidelines that are put into national laws by the member states.

        Was I correct to read that in a pirate voice?

      • by Kjella (173770)

        As far as I know, most "EU law" is actually EU guidelines that are put into national laws by the member states. So the member states will have very similar laws, but it's not a single law that is applied to the entire EU.

        A guideline is voluntary, EU directives most certainly not. A few choice quotes from the WP page:

        A directive is a legislative act of the European Union, which requires member states to achieve a particular result without dictating the means of achieving that result. (...) If a member state fails to pass the required national legislation, or if the national legislation does not adequately comply with the requirements of the directive, the European Commission may initiate legal action against the member state in the European Court of Justice. (...) Also, in Francovich v. Italy, the court found that member states could be liable to pay damages to individuals and companies who had been adversely affected by the non-implementation of a directive.

        Basically the national governments are rubber stamping it, it's just so that the same law can exist in different legal systems and to keep up the illusion of sovereignty. It may take a court case in each country but the EU requirements won't differ.

    • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @12:44AM (#39410657) Journal

      The problem isn't that Apple has been getting away with it, if you insist, Apple folds pretty damn quickly, the problem is that you got to fight them. Sony tried to pull a similar stunt with the PSP and its lousy display with lots of dead pixels, Holland was the only place in the world where Sony officially agreed to replace any PSP with any malfunctioning sub-pixel. If you insisted yourself in a shop in another country you would probably have had it replaced BUT the law states that this should be the norm, not just for the customer who insists on his rights.

      Apple is one of the worsed performers in this area, they have no problem charging far higher prices in the EU for the supposed thougher regulation but then try to withold the extra support that is needed. Probably because Apple is an extremely American company and they just can't grasp that in some parts of the world, they can't have it all their way.

      The odd thing is that Europe is far easier to deal in, yes, there are longer warranties but then again, nobody can sue for millions for trivial cases. Warranty costs can be easily calculated and avoided with good QA (haha, Apple and QA) but frivolous lawsuits can come out at your right out of the blue.

    • They are. Apple are being blatantly disregarding the law and they will be made to comply. For what it's worth, in Portugal we get the full 2 years warranty in Apple products so it's probably a local distributor thing.
  • "If the consumer association wins it's case,..." Doesn't sound like a big if.

    • by indre1 (1422435)
      It's strange that they've gotten away with it for so long. In most EU countries, each and every electronics shop states clearly that they offer a 2 year warranty to all retail clients, even if the manufacturer only provides one year. The retailers are simply obligated to take the extra risk and adjust their prices.
  • Belgium [quora.com]...

    And everyone was so offended that they forgot about the lawsuit entirely.

  • Longer warrantees directly translate to higher costs. So Apple just needs to add 50 euros to the price to cover the increased warrantee. But I wonder what a typical consumer would choose: higher price or smaller warrantee. I know that I always turn down the offers for extended warrantees... What's the diff? except in EU, no choice in the matter...
    • by whoever57 (658626) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @01:12AM (#39410767) Journal

      Longer warrantees directly translate to higher costs

      Only in the short term. Longer warranties translate to products designed to last longer which then have a lower cost of ownership. Of course, if all you care about is getting the latest shiny object from the factories in China, then you probably don't care about the warranty. But, consider that if you plan to sell your device and buy a new one, longer product lives translate to higher resale value.

  • by Udo Schmitz (738216) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @01:51AM (#39410929) Journal

    You may be surprised that a summary on /. is less than correct ... OK I'll leave the snark out.

    Repeat after me: *There is NO “mandatory 2 years warranty” in the European Union*

    What there is, is a “Maengelhaftung”, which is usually translated to “Liability for defects”. This is to be granted by the *seller* of a consumer good to a consumer. It is valid for 2 years from the date of purchase. Any defect showing in the first 6 months is assumed to be a manufacturing error, burden of proof of the opposite is with the seller, for the remaining 18 months the customer has to proof that the defect was already present at time of purchase.

    As Apple sells its products in its own stores in europe (online included) it adheres to EU law, if Apple products are sold through a third party, the consumer has to deal with that third party.

    Apple grants a voluntary 1 year warranty. This actually strengthens the purchasers position, because the above mentioned “burden of proof” now lies with Apple for the first *12* months. No consumer advocacy group in Europe has a problem with this.

    But Apple additionally sells “Apple Care” contracts, which extend Apples warranty to three years. If you read closely this far, you'll notice that this is a much better protection for the consumer than the mandatory “Liability for defects” the EU imposes and absolutely doesn't touch this EU Directive. Regardless of any voluntary or sold warranty the EU Directive still stands.

    Now, what the european consumer advocacy groups say is that Apple misleads the already (through the “Liability for defects” EU Directive) fine protected consumer into believing they wouldn't be protected after 12 months without buying Apple Care. If people are very stupid, and often they are, this could very well be the case.

    http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CELEX:31999L0044:EN:HTML [europa.eu]

    • by headLITE (171240) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @02:43AM (#39411085)

      Was about to post this... the summary gives an entirely wrong idea. All four linked sources have it right, but slashdot being slashdot manages to get it all wrong...

      Note that in some countries this is also a language issue. There is a difference between defects liability (two years in the EU, applies to the business that actually sold you the product, first six months the burden of proof is on the seller) and a warranty (a promise that a business may make as part of a business transaction, such as the one year warranty that Apple provides voluntarily but that is not required at all by EU law). In German these are also clearly distinguished ("Gewährleistung" vs. "Garantie") but in French, for example, as far as I know it's one word for both ("garantie").

      So the problem here is that Apple is being misleading due to a language issue and failing to explain the difference between different types of a "garantie". There isn't really a story in this anyway, anyone who knows how warranties and defects liability work in the EU knows that Apple as a manufacturer can only be offering a voluntary warranty, and that the store where you actually buy the product is subject to defects liability, and it's not Apple's job as a manufacturer to explain that on its web site.

      • by Kjella (173770) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @04:30AM (#39411459) Homepage

        There isn't really a story in this anyway, anyone who knows how warranties and defects liability work in the EU knows that Apple as a manufacturer can only be offering a voluntary warranty, and that the store where you actually buy the product is subject to defects liability, and it's not Apple's job as a manufacturer to explain that on its web site.

        As long as Apple sells directly to customers, that's absolutely their job to explain the difference. Besides even if your rights are guaranteed in law I think all companies have a responsibility to clearly say what rights you have by law, that the warranty is not a replacement for that and what it actually offers that isn't already guaranteed by law.

    • by w4rl5ck (531459)

      Agreed. I was up to explaining it myself, but you did a great job. Should be voted up!

    • Now, what the european consumer advocacy groups say is that Apple misleads the already (through the “Liability for defects” EU Directive) fine protected consumer into believing they wouldn't be protected after 12 months without buying Apple Care. If people are very stupid, and often they are, this could very well be the case.

      http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CELEX:31999L0044:EN:HTML [europa.eu]

      Confusing Warranty (Garantie) and the EU mandated "Gewährleistung" (what you referred to as "Mangelhaftung") is actually quite a common mistake. You should check out a few European consumer electronics forums - on the German ones that I frequent, most people who join to ask questions about their dead electronics don't know the difference between the two. I sure as hell didn't until I actually needed to use a warranty in Germany for the first time...

  • European Warranty (Score:5, Informative)

    by ovande (2599137) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @02:59AM (#39411157)
    Some explanation about the 2 year warranty in Europe. This was a 1999 EC directive ( (Directive 1999/44/EC) . From 2005 it became law in a lot of European countries. Initially this directive was to curb cheap imports from Asia. Manufacturers - like Apple and others - were not targets. In fact , retailers are solely responsible for all warranty repairs. Now comes the tricky bit: in lot's of cases retailers were not covered for the second year warranty by their suppliers. That why they forced the unnecessary Applecare upon their clients. But now : If you buy an Apple product online they become a retailer , so they had to comply with the EC directive. Which they did not. The headline is somewhat misleading. It's not only Belgium. There are 10 other countries involved.
    • in lot's of cases retailers were not covered for the second year warranty by their suppliers.

      That's the retailer's problem, not the consumer's. If the retailer doesn't like it, they are free to try and renegotiate their contract with the supplier.

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