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Italy toys with banning Apple products

Apple is facing a potentially costly problem when it comes to the amount of aftercare it provides customers, as Italy begins to investigate the company over whether or not it has contravened not only Italian, but European Union, law with the length of warranties it offers on its products.

According to a report on the IDG News Service, the company’s own warranties may be direct contradiction to Italy’s consumer law, which gives a free two-year warranty on any electronic product purchased inside the country. In a statement published on its website, the Italian Antitrust Authority reported that it had already looked into the matter and discovered that – based upon information provided by Apple Sales International, Apple Italia and Apple Retail Italia – Apple appears to be guilty of unfair customer practice, offering what was called “non-contractual, onerous and disproportionate obstacles that hinder the exercise of consumer entitlements.”

“We checked what Apple was doing and found that it was completely inadequate,” explained antitrust spokeswoman Emanuela Goggiomani, who went on to add that the free two-year warranty at the heart of the issue “is the implementation of a European Union directive, so the case is being closely watched by Antitrust Authorities in other European countries.”

Apple currently offers just one year of free support to European customers, with paid “AppleCare Protection Plans” available for those looking for longer-lasting coverage. The company has already been fined $1.2 million by Italian authorities on this topic, which makes it slightly more surprising that it hasn’t taken any obvious steps to do anything about changing its policy. Of course, to do that would be to accept the decision of the authorities, which it seems in no rush to do. “We’ve appealed the recent decision of the court as it was, in our view, based upon an incorrect interpretation of the law,” Apple said in a statement, going on to add that the company has “introduced a number of measures to address the [Authority’s] concerns and we disagree with their latest complaint.”

They’ll have a chance to go deeper into just why they disagree as the case moves forward. “Apple has 30 days to present its counter-arguments and it could face a fine of up to a $189,000 for each of the two practices under examination,” Goggiomani said. “If the company continues to breach the Antitrust Authority’s order, further proceedings could lead to a 30-day suspension of trading in Italy.”

Of course, should the company find itself suspended in Italy, the question then becomes whether any other countries in the EU will follow suit, and if so, which ones. After all, if the company is found guilty of ignoring EU law in one country, it’s doing the same in all the others, as well. It’s that potential cost that may prove to be the thing that ultimately will bring Apple in line, if anything does.

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