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Water-resistant, but … Italy fines Apple for “misleading” iPhone advertising

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The Italian antitrust regulator has fined tech giant Apple EUR 10 million ($ 12 million) for improper business practices. It refers to the sale of some of the iPhone ‘smartphones’ that are promoted as waterproof but without specifying the conditions.

The Competition and Market Guarantor Authority (AGCM) states that in its advertising Apple highlights water resistance as one of the essential characteristics of its iPhone. The advertisements make it clear that iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone XR, iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max devices can be submerged in water up to a depth of four meters for 30 minutes.

What the manufacturer does not clarify is that this resistance is limited to certain circumstances. For example, to laboratory tests where “pure, static water” is used. The Italian antitrust authority stresses that these artificial conditions are impossible for consumers to meet in real life.

Furthermore, according to the AGCM, Apple’s disclaimer does not provide adequate information and tends to “mislead” people. There it is indicated that “the guarantee does not cover damages caused by liquids” without specifying what type of guarantee is taken into account, the conventional guarantee or the legal guarantee.

As Corriere della Sera newspaper explains, “The legal guarantee is the one to which the buyer is entitled, it lasts for two years and can be demanded from the seller in all situations in which the product is defective, does not work or is different from what was ordered or described in the advertisement. The [conventional] commercial warranty is one in which the seller and/or manufacturer assume additional obligations to the consumer.”

Apple’s refusal to provide warranty support for models damaged by contact with liquids violates Italy’s current Consumer Code, just as misleading advertising does. That is why the company, represented in this case by Apple Distribution International and Apple Italia S.R.L. must pay a fine of EUR 10 million ($ 12 million).

In addition, it is ordered to publish the exact information on Apple’s web pages in Italy, which was done a few days after the notice. In the ‘support’ section, the company specified the details of water, splash and dust resistance for the current line of iPhones. Just with this he added that “it is not a permanent feature and can decrease with normal use” of the device.

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