The European Commission must take a larger role to monitor and coordinate consumer protection laws, Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said Tuesday, citing Apple as a prime example of the need for the Commission to get tougher.
"In at least 21 E.U. countries, Apple is not informing consumers correctly about the legal warranty rights they have," Reding said at the European Consumer Summit in Brussels. "This is simply not good enough."
Reding wrote to consumer ministers in all E.U. countries last September, urging them to take action after Apple was fined by Italian authorities, but she received replies from only 15 out of 27 member states.
Apple was fined ¬900,000 (US$1.16 million) by the Italian Antitrust Authority for not providing consumers with information regarding E.U.-protected warranty rights, instead misleading customers and pushing their own paid-for warranty, Applecare. Under E.U. consumer law, buyers are automatically entitled to a free minimum two-year warranty.
The European Commission also received complaints from 11 countries about Apple's advertising of product warranties.
But approaches to enforcement of consumer protections differ by country and are inconsistent at a national level, Reding said Tuesday. In Finland and Hungary misleading information appeared to have been removed from Apple websites. No information was available from Malta, Romania, Slovakia and Latvia. In all other countries there were still outstanding concerns.
"This case and the responses I received since I sent my letter have highlighted rather clearly just why the Commission cannot sit on the sidelines on enforcement issues," she said. "The Commission has to take a more prominent role in monitoring and coordinating coherent enforcement of E.U. consumer rules by the member states."