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Apple stops selling customer protection plan at Italian shops

Customers gather outside an Apple store before the release of iPhone 5 in Munich early September 21, 2012. REUTERS/Michael Dalder
Customers gather outside an Apple store before the release of iPhone 5 in Munich early September 21, 2012. REUTERS/Michael Dalder

MILAN (Reuters) - Apple Inc has stopped selling a customer protection plan that raised concerns with Italy's antitrust authority, a company spokesman said on Tuesday.

Italy's competition watchdog had threatened the U.S. giant with a fine and even temporary closure of its Italian operations if the company did not make it clear to customers that they were entitled to a free two-year warranty on its products, in accordance to EU law.

As of November 9, Apple is no longer selling its own, broader AppleCare Protection Plan (APP) in own brand retail stores in Italy, nor distributing the APP to Apple resellers, a company spokesman confirmed to Reuters.

AppleCare can be bought on its website, where it is described as a product with advantages that "add to the two years of vendor warranty required by Italian law to protect consumers".

Italy's antitrust watchdog AGCM has already clashed with Apple on this issue and has fined the maker of the iPhone and iPad some 900,000 euros for failing to offer the free guarantee.

Apple's own protection plan remains available online on the Apple Online Store.

The AGCM alleged earlier this year that the information provided by Apple about an extra guarantee plan encouraged customers to buy the APP service without clearly explaining that the company is obliged to offer a two-year free warranty.

Apple rejected the antitrust claims at the time.

A spokeswoman for AGCM said talks between Apple and the Italian regulator were still in progress. The regulator is expected to near a decision at the end of November.

(Reporting By Lisa Jucca and Naomi O'Leary)

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