Belgian judge threatened to block Apple websites over EU warranty shenanigans

By , Mar 4, 2014

applecare 2

For quite some time now, Apple has been at odds with EU watchdogs who’ve been complaining a lot about the iPhone maker’s unacceptable stance and practices when it comes to educating EU buyers on their consumer rights.

At the heart of the issue: Apple’s unwillingness to explain to its users in an unambiguous manner that EU consumer laws entitle them to at least two years of coverage on consumer electronics.

As Apple’s standard warranty provides twelve months of coverage, the company was caught cunningly beating around the bush by attempting to upsell buyers to its pricey AppleCare+ extended protection plan, which it introduced last September in the United Kingdom, Italy, France and elsewhere in Europe.

Apple was even fined over this in Italy and now comes word that a Belgium judge has contemplated blocking access to all Apple websites in the country because the company has continued to mislead consumers about warranty protections available for products purchased from its brick-and-mortar and online stores…

The Belgian newspapers DMorgen.be is reporting (via Tech.eu) that a complaint filed by Federal Public Service (FPS) Economy prompted a Brussels judge to consider forcing Internet Service Providers (ISP) in the country to block Apple websites over misleading product warranties.

The DMorge.be post was later updated to make it clearer that the Brussels magistrate has considered blocking Apple websites in the past, “but is now weighing other options” after realizing that restricting access to Apple’s websites would also disrupt iTunes, iCloud and other Apple services “in a myriad of ways”.

Caving in to the pressure from a number of the EU member states, Apple’s EU websites were updated last June with the following statement in compliance with EU laws:

When you purchase Apple products, consumer laws across the European Union provide statutory warranty rights in addition to the coverage you receive from the Apple One-Year Limited Warranty and the optional AppleCare Protection Plan. Non-Apple-braded products purchased from Apple are also eligible for coverage under EU-wide consumer laws.

Regardless of the punishment, I don’t think Apple fully understands that outsmarting EU lawmakers is a gargantuan task. Companies like Microsoft and Google, for example, have tried to run circles around EU laws and failed miserably, ultimately finding themselves being fined billions of euros in the process.

I’m located in Europe and let me tell you right away, the European Union is the world’s biggest bureaucracy. There’s just no way of defeating that beast, even if you’re a certain fruity company from the sunny California.

The sooner Apple adapts itself to the realities of doing business in Europe, the better. Otherwise, EU watchdogs will relentlessly file one complaint after the other, forcing Apple to pay up and lose some of its brand appeal in the eyes of EU consumers.

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  • Rick Kreuk

    This makes me proud to be an EU citizen. At least our government tries to protect the people.

    • Techpm

      You know products will just cost more to cover this, right?

      We already pay a lot more due to the insane EU sales taxes.

      Stop forcing nanny laws and let people decide for themselves if this is worth it for them.

      • Carlos Gomes

        If a company can’t ‘guarantee’ that this kind of product will keep working up to 2 years, they shouldn’t be allowed to comercialize it. Period.
        This is what the mandatory 2-years warranty is all about.

      • Techpm

        Solid state, purely electronic products rarely fail on their own after the first year if handled correctly. Anyone involved in electronics knows that most claims after that arise from misuse.

        Apple already covers _real_ faults for the 2+ years in EU and actually almost everywhere they have official representation – for example they’ve just fixed my 6 year old MBP for free because it had a nvidia chipset problem and even offered to replace the hard drive for free as well because it was reporting flaky in the diagnostics. Took 3 days, even apologising because it was an old machine and they had to order parts.

        This is service far above what Sony or Dell ever gave me.. yet I don’t see the EU chasing them.

        The EU seems set on chastising Apple for selling extended warranties that cover a lot more than the EU requires – e.g. accidental damage with Applecare+ – however ALL electronics companies do this.

    • Hyr3m

      Come on now… You’re saying this as if the EU were already a country… You’re a citizen of a country part of the EU… Your country is supposed to still have its self-determination… The NWO will soon rule the world but people should still try to at lease pretend they would like to resist and keep living in democracies (even if they’re all fake… even Switzerland’s).

      • Rick Kreuk

        We are not the USA, I know that (our cultures are very different and we speak different languages). But the EU government does in fact take precedence over the government of the individual member states. For warranty, a minimum of two years is enforced by EU law. All member states must comply. They still have self-determination in that they can go further than two years. The Netherlands, for example, has passed legislation to force manufacturers to provide warranty service for as long as “reasonable”. This basically means warranty for as long as one is expected to use a product. Many people use an iPhone for three years, so the reasonable warranty period would be three years.

        I’m not saying the EU government is perfect: for one, it is not very democratic, as the parliament doesn’t really do anything. I’m saying that instead of only focusing on the needs of the big corporations, the EU government also passes legislation in the interest of the consumer.

        As to the increase in price: the extended warranty and other benefits are worth it. Buying a seperate warranty plan would be way more expensive.

      • Hyr3m

        I’m not from the US either btw; I’m Swiss. Switzerland is not part of the EU and I’m really glad about that… yet the EU is still forcing some of their legislation onto us and that means other people get to decide for us. That’s not just “not very democratic”, it’s just not democracy at all.

        Of course there are some good aspects to creating common rules (such as 2 years warranties or universal charging sockets (I’m staring at you, Apple)) but it’s not worth losing your freedom and self-determination over such petty perks.

        Maybe some of what they do is in the interest of the _consumer_ but most of what they do goes against the interest of the _people_. They push and allow health hazard in food, air, water, drugs etc…

        So alright, great, Apple gets stopped from openly screwing people over by pushing extended warranty purchases while consumers are entitled to it for free… but on the other side we get poisoned, brainwashed, put to slavery and we lose civic rights… Is it really worth it ? Does that make you proud to be in a country that belongs (note the wording) to the EU ? – to be a “EU citizen” ?

  • Carlos Gomes

    Why is this issue considered a shenanigan?

    • Hyr3m

      Apple dancing around the issue… still trying to sell people 2-years warranties when they’re entitled to that for free…

  • Domingo E. Mojica

    And those EU companies that could leave, are leaving. My corporation has moved four manufacturing site in Europe to the USA in the last two years. Not good for the 250+ workers that lost their jobs.

    Again, Apple needs to get their act together over there. While in Rome, do what Romen do.