Apple has been fined $12 million (£9.3m) by Italy’s competition regulator for “aggressive and misleading” commercial practices regarding its iPhones.
According to announcement from Italy’s Autorità Garante della Concorrenza e del Mercato (AGCM), Apple was fined because it advertised that several iPhone models (from the iPhone 8 to iPhone 11) were water-resistant.
However, Apple did not clarify that these phones were only waterproof so under certain circumstances.
The AGCM said that Apple had touted the iPhone’s water resistance as a major feature in its promotional content, saying that it can withstand submersion in water of 1 to 4m in depth for up to 30 minutes.
However, the company failed to clarify that this statement is only true under specific lab conditions such as being submerged in pure and still water.
It should be noted that Apple in its fine print and support pages has always advised against swimming and bathing with its iPhones.
And the Italian watchdog was also very unhappy at Apple practice of not covering water damage of iPhones under warranty, a policy it labelled as “aggressive.”
The watchdog felt that Apple’s disclaimer about the warranty not covering damage due to liquids is not only unclear but also goes against its boasts of water resistance.
It went on to say that Apple’s refusal to provide warranty coverage in post-sales phase for iPhones suffering damage due to water and other liquids was illegal under the country’s consumer code as well.
Besides the financial penalty, Apple has also been ordered to offer links to the regulatory authority’s findings on its webpages for Italian customers.
It should be noted that Apple has been pinged before by Italian authorities.
In 2011 Apple was hit with a €900,000 (£750,000) fine by AGCM, after it accused the iPad maker of misleading consumers over product guarantees.
It said that Apple had failed to adequately inform consumers of their right to two years free technical support as provided by Italy’s Consumer Code.
Apple apparently only offered its one-year standard warranty.
Then in 2015 Apple opted to settle a corporate tax dispute with the Italian tax office, and reportedly handed over 318m euros (£235m), for an alleged failure to pay corporate taxes to the tune of 879m euros (£649m).
Then in 2018, Apple was hit with a 5 million euro fine for releasing software updates that “significantly reduced” the performance of its iPhones – the so called ‘battery gate’ scandal.
Last month Apple confirmed it was to pay $113m (£85m) to settle an official investigation by 33 US states into its deliberate policy of slowing down older iPhone models.
That settlement was on top of the $500 million litigation settlement announced in March 2020 in the United States.
Finally, in summer 2020 it was reported that both Apple and Amazon were facing an antitrust investigation in Italy over the sale of Apple equipment, including its Beats headphones.
That investigation centred over whether Apple and Amazon allegedly engaged in anti-competitive cooperation in the sale of Apple products and Beats headphones.