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Apple fined $12 million by Italian agency for misleading consumers about iPhone water resistance


According to 9to5Mac, regulators in Italy have fined Apple €10M Euros (equivalent to $11.95 million) for making incomplete claims about the water resistance of certain iPhone models. The agency involved, L’Autorità Garante della Concorrenza e del Mercato (AGCM), is in charge of making sure that companies treat both consumers and competing firms fairly. AGCM said that Apple had committed two violations.

Apple fined $12 billion for making incomplete claims about iPhone water resistance

The first one was about Apple making claims about the water resistance of specific iPhone models without telling consumers that the numbers quoted by Apple were only true under ideal laboratory conditions. According to the Italian agency, in real-life testing the iPhones being tested could not pass the same test. Apple marketed models like the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone XR, iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max as being water resistant to a maximum depth between 1 and 4 meters (3.37 inches to 13.12 inches) depending on the model, for up to 30 minutes. The Italian regulatory agency pointed out that Apple’s marketing failed to mention that the numbers used by the tech giant to promote the water resistance on the aforementioned iPhone models were true only during specific and controlled laboratory tests. Those tests used static and pure water as opposed to the agitated and salty water that an iPhone might come in contact with in real life.

As serious as the above seems to be, Apple was accused of a second and more serious issue by the Italian regulatory agency. With this complaint, Apple would use its water resistance claims to sell iPhone models but would refuse to extend warranty coverage to those phones that suffered water damage. While Apple does include a disclaimer that says, “The guarantee does not cover damage caused by liquids,” the disclaimer would most likely deceive most consumers. Why? The Italian agency says that Apple does not make it clear what type of guarantee is being discussed and the conditions and limitations of the water resistance protection that Apple promotes.

Apple determines whether one of its devices has suffered water damage through the use of internal indicators that show when water has made its way inside an iPhone. When this indicator is positive, Apple will not honor its warranty which means that device owners will not get a free repair or replacement unit.

Besides being fined the 10 million Euros, Apple has been forced to publish a notice on its Italian website through a ‘Consumer protection information’ link. Apple could end up facing similar claims against it filed by other countries in the EU. Even more damaging to Apple, class action suits against the company could pop up in the states.
Apple says that the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus are IP67 water resistant which means that they are protected to a maximum depth of 1 meter (3 feet 3.37 inches) for up to 30 minutes. Other models with the same protection include the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone X, iPhone XR, and the iPhone SE (second generation). The iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max and iPhone 11 have IP68 protection which protects those models to a depth of 2 meters (6.56 feet) for as long as 30 minutes. The iPhone 11 Pro, 11 Pro Max carry protection down to a depth of 4 meters (13.12 feet) for up to 30 minutes. And the latest iPhone 12 line up features 6 meters of water protection (19.69 feet) for up to 30 minutes.

In addition, the 2018, 2019, and 2020 iPhones (along with the second-gen iPhone SE) are protected from liquids that spill on the handsets such as soda, beer, juice, coffee, and tea. If you spill one of these liquids on your iPhone, rise the affected area with tap water and wipe it off.

Apple’s support site lists some hints on how to protect your iPhone from water damage. According to the company:

  • Swimming or bathing with your iPhone.
  • Exposing your iPhone to pressurized water or high velocity water, such as when showering, water skiing, wake boarding, surfing, jet skiing, and so on.
  • Using your iPhone in a sauna or steam room.
  • Intentionally submerging your iPhone in water.
  • Operating your iPhone outside the suggested temperature ranges or in extremely humid conditions.
  • Dropping your iPhone or subjecting it to other impacts.
  • Disassembling your iPhone, including removing screws.

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