Apple’s warranty plans have drawn the ire of a Belgian consumer watchdog agency, Test-Aankoop/Test-Achats. The group has filed a complaint against the company over how AppleCare is sold and marketed to customers, who in the EU by default are entitled to a free two-year warranty with any consumer electronics purchase. The complaint says Apple markets its warranties in a manner which doesn’t properly explain consumer rights to Belgian gadget shoppers.
The decision to pursue legal action comes only after Test-Aankoop/Test-Achats decided to join up with 10 other Europe-based entities to make complaints about how Apple operates its warranties, but now the group feels it is time to escalate to a court case after efforts to petition the Mac maker have gone unheard. The move also follows successful action in Italy regarding the same exact issue, a case which the Belgian watchdog cites as a precedent, noting that Apple not only had to pay a €900,000 penalty in that case, but also modified its practices for the Italian market.
Why all the fuss? There is lots of money to be made in value-added warranties, that’s why. It’s not clear exactly how much Apple makes via AppleCare, which offers consumers extended protection on their devices above Apple’s basic one-year warranty, for an additional fee. But it is likely a lot; added warranties are much higher profit than gadgets themselves, since many consumers never take advantage of their services at all, more than compensating for the few who do redeem them for expensive repairs or replacements. That’s why Apple isn’t moving to change its practices in the EU for anything short of a court order to do so, and why we may see others beyond the Belgian group pursue the same kind of action.