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Apple fined RM48 million for “aggressive and misleading” claims over the iPhone’s water resistance

Like many other smartphone manufacturers, Apple advertises the water resistance of its smartphones. For example, the iPhone 12 series comes with IP68 water resistance ratings, which means that they should be able to handle depths of up to 6 metres for up to 30 minutes.

However, liquid damage on the iPhone isn’t covered by the Apple standard warranty, as stated on the support page:

As such, L’Autorità Garante della Concorrenza e del Mercato (AGCM), Italy’s antitrust regulatory body, has imposed a fine of EUR 10 million (RM48.7 million) on Apple for allegedly misleading customers about the water resistance of the iPhone. In an official statement, the AGCM says that the fine concerns two distinct “unfair commercial practices”.

The first has to do with how iPhones are advertised for their water resistance from the iPhone 8 till the iPhone 11 series. The Italian authority says that Apple does not clarify that these ratings are only valid in specific conditions—such as controlled laboratory tests with pure water. For some context, water resistance ratings are affected with other forms of liquid, such as sea water. Ingress protection also tends to worsen over time, as part of natural wear and tear.

Additionally, AGCM also refers to Apple’s disclaimer for warranty coverage for water damage. As seen in the screenshot above, liquid damage is not covered, and coupled with the “emphatic” advertising of water resistance, the Italian body stated that this constituted an attempt to “deceive consumers”.

For warranty claims, Apple’s techs usually refer to internal indicators within the iPhone to check if water has entered the internals of the phone. If this is found to be true, Apple’s policy is to deny warranty coverage (or replacements)—which sums up the reason for Apple’s multi-million Ringgit fine.

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It’s worth noting that Apple’s approach to liquid damage and warranties isn’t unique. Other smartphone-makers also state in their respective policies that liquid damage is not covered by the device warranty. Two of Apple’s main competitors in the mobile market, Samsung and Huawei, both have similar disclaimers on their support pages:

Both companies have also advertised the water resistance ratings of their smartphones in the past—in fact, we can’t think of a smartphone-maker that hasn’t mentioned the IP ratings of their smartphones on product pages. However, for now, only Apple has been subject to this particular fine.

Will this open the door for more regulation for other brands? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.