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Apple sued by Belgian consumer group over misleading warranty

Apple is facing more warranty-related woes. A Belgian consumer group has filed suit, arguing that Apple does not clearly communicate its warranty policies to consumers.

The warranty information Apple provides on its website for Belgian consumers is "lacking in clarity and incomplete on multiple points," the group, known as Test-Achats/Test-Aankoop, said in a translated statement.

In March 2012, Test-Achats/Test-Aankoop joined with 10 other consumer groups to ask Apple to revamp its warranty policy and be more clear about what that entails. "Since Apple has remained deaf to our requests, we have launched a legal action," Test-Achats/Test-Aankoop said yesterday.

The suit comes a little over a year after Apple incurred a 900,000 euros (£745,000) fine from the Italian Antitrust Authority for misleading consumers when it comes to warranties. Apple provided "unclear information on payments for additional assistance offered to consumers" and had not "fully implemented the two-year guarantee by the producer," Italian officials said at the time.

In October, meanwhile, EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding penned a letter to member state ministers that asked them to verify that Apple is notifying customers that they are entitled to two-year product warranties. Reding wrote that Apple is "prominently" advertising its one-year warranty, but does not appear to be telling customers that EU law requires a minimum two-year warranty. As a result, customers might be buying pricier Apple Care plans rather than taking advantage of free, two-year plans. "These are unacceptable marketing practices," Reding wrote.

According to Apple's Hardware Warranties website, Cupertino provides a one-year warranty on its products in the US. Despite the fact that EU customers are entitled to a two-year warranty, however, the website also lists its warranties as valid for one year across Europe.

A separate website elaborates on warranty options in the EU. "When you purchase Apple products, European Union consumer law provides statutory warranty rights in addition to the coverage you receive from the Apple One-Year Limited Warranty and the optional AppleCare Protection Plan," the website says.