Recently, two consumer advocate groups in Italy filed a class action lawsuit against Apple.  Allegedly affecting thousands of Italian customers, the groups accuse Apple of unethical business practices in not giving adequate clarification regarding the required two-year warranty on most of their products.  Apple employees and policies encourage customers to purchase the extended AppleCare warranty without explaining that the products are already under a warranty for two years according to the required minimum two-year guarantee under E.U. law.

The purchasers who had been induced into buying an extra warranty are being given six months to decide whether or not to participate in the lawsuit.  The risk for the purchasers is relatively low.  In the event the lawsuit is not successful against Apple, the consumer advocate groups have agreed to assume the bulk of the legal fees.  Also, in the event of success, the consumers would only be contributing 10 to 15% of their financial compensation to the consumer groups moving the lawsuit forward.

Apple has a checkered past in its marketing practices within Europe.  The claim brought by the groups cite a recent fine for €900,000 imposed on Apple by Italy’s Antitrust Authority last December.  Officials in the European Union have also encouraged consumer groups to keep a close eye on Apple’s business practices all across Europe.

In the United States, consumers generally laud Apple’s customer service as one of the best.  No law in the United States requires Apple to have a two-year warranty on their products.  In the U.S., Apple has a limited one-year warranty from the date of purchase with the option of extending the warranty for three years with AppleCare.  The E.U. mandatory two-year warranty makes AppleCare less of an incentive, which is also the same three-year warranty in Europe.

Despite having a reputation of quality products in Italy, Apple seems to be known for less than clear marketing and business practices.  The contrast between the perception in America and Italy regarding Apple’s integrity begs a further discussion of the differences between antitrust laws in America, Italy and the additional laws imposed by the European Union.  Apple’s business practices should likewise be tailored to the specific laws of different countries, perhaps fine-tuning their AppleCare warranty to appeal consumers in different countries with different laws and protections.