Apple defends against EU 14-day refund abuse with App Store alert for customers with excessive refunds on file

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Last week, we reported on a flaw with the EU’s new no-questions-asked 14-day refund policy that meant customers could effectively get paid apps for free, as refunding the app does not delete it from customers’ devices.

In response, Apple has adjusted its App Store purchases slightly for customers who have an excessive number of refunds on file. This means people with a track record of refunding purchase effectively lose the right to refund their purchase.

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The fundamental flaw with EU 14-day refunds: you keep the app forever

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A week ago, Apple introduced 14-day no-questions-asked refunds in the EU for iTunes Store and App Store content. This means that, without the need for a reason, any Apple customer in Europe can get their money back for (primarily) app purchases in 5-7 days time. That’s how it is described, at least.

This opens up some possibilities for abuse. For instance, if you complete a game within two weeks, then you can get your money back and end up paying nothing. As a developer, I tested this out myself. It turns out there is an even bigger problem. At least, right now, when the refund is processed, the app continues to work. You get the app for free, forever.

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EU regulators plan to decide on Apple’s Beats deal by July 30th

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Before the Apple and Beats marriage can really be official, the two companies must first gain regulatory approval from various governing bodies where the companies conduct business. Apple included the following expectation in its official press release announcing the deal: Subject to regulatory approvals, Apple expects the transaction to close in fiscal Q4.

For Apple, having regulatory approval and closing the transaction by the end of fiscal Q4 means it expects everything to be in order by the end of September. According to a Reuters report, regulators in the European Union will announce their decision on the deal by July 30th next month. Read more

Apple’s Black Friday deals go live in UK & other EU countries with discounts, not gift cards

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While Apple’s Black Friday deals started going live in Australia and elsewhere today with Apple Store Gift Cards in place of traditional discounts, it appears Apple will be offering discounts and not gift cards in at least some countries. The UK, France, Germany and other European Apple Online Stores have now started posting Black Friday promotions with discounts on iPads, MacBooks, iPods, Apple TV, and many accessories. Read more

France hits Apple with 5 million euro bill for unpaid taxes on 2011 iPad sales

Tim-Cook-WTF-01In the midst of the U.S. government’s interest in Apple and other large multinationals that “avoid” paying taxes in the U.S. or repatriating funds stored abroad, RudeBaguette.com notes that the French society of authors, composers, and music publishers (SACEM) has announced that Apple owes around 5 million euros in unpaid taxes.

The funds apparently come from unpaid royalties on iPad sales for 2011 that France and other EU countries, such as Germany, collect for devices capable of transferring and displaying copyrighted material:

To give a bit of a background, the copie privée is a tax in several countries including France & Germany that is applied to all digital devices that can transfer, read, or otherwise make use of copyrighted material. The tax goes to the SACEM, which then takes the lump sum of all the taxes collected and deals them out to authors, creators, producers, actors, etc. accordingly… the problem here isn’t so much the tax, but that Apple actually charged the consumers this tax, and didn’t pay it out to the SACEM.

The news comes as reports claim France is beginning to crack down on tax schemes of large companies with plans to force  Apple, Google, and others to disclose details of foreign business activities and tax practices: Read more

German court rules Apple sharing customer data violates privacy laws

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From Apple’s Privacy Policy

Bloomberg reports that the Berlin Regional Court in Germany has told Apple to change its policies for managing customer’s data on its website after ruling that Apple’s terms for data use go against German laws. According to a statement posted by a German consumer group Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverband (VSBV), the courts have ruled that Apple cannot request “global consent” for use of a customer’s data” without informing the user of where and how the data will be used. It will also no longer be able to use German users’ data to “promote location-based services and products” or deliver the data to third-parties for advertising purposes:  Read more

EU Commission says Motorola’s injunction against Apple in Germany amounts to abuse, prohibited by antitrust law

European-CommissionAs if we needed someone to tell us that the ongoing patent lawsuits between Apple and Motorola in Germany were getting a little out of control… Today the European Commission has finally stepped up calling Motorola’s enforcement of an injunction against Apple with mobile standard essential patents “abuse of a dominant position prohibited by EU antitrust rules.” The EU Commission, however, does note that the statement of objections sent to Motorola does not reflect the final outcome of its investigation into its use of standard essential patents (SEPs):

The Motorola Mobility SEPs in question relate to the European Telecommunications Standardisation Institute’s (ETSI) GPRS standard, part of the GSM standard, which is a key industry standard for mobile and wireless communications. When this standard was adopted in Europe, Motorola Mobility gave a commitment that it would license the patents which it had declared essential to the standard on FRAND terms. Nevertheless, Motorola Mobility sought an injunction against Apple in Germany on the basis of a GPRS SEP and, after the injunction was granted, went on to enforce it, even when Apple had declared that it would be willing to be bound by a determination of the FRAND royalties by the German court.

The EU Commission essentially states that Apple should be able to license the technology under fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms decided by a third-party, and that Motorola’s approach with its latest injunction could “distort licensing negotiations and impose unjustified licensing terms.” Back in February of 2012, Apple was for a short while forced to remove all 3G devices from its online store in Germany following the injunction, and at the time Apple noted that “Motorola repeatedly refuses to license this patent to Apple on reasonable terms, despite having declared it an industry standard patent seven years ago.” Read more

France calls Apple’s decision to remove AppGratis ‘extremely brutal and unilateral’, will ask EU for tighter regulation

AppGratis-645x250Following a controversy in which Apple removed app discovery service AppGratis from its App Store for breaking Apple’s guidelines, Reuters reports today that regulators in France are planning to ask the European Commission and EU member states for better regulation of technology companies. The statement was made by French junior minister for digital economy Fleur Pellerin on a recent trip to AppGratis publisher iMediapp. Fleur described Apple’s decision to pull AppGratis as “extremely brutal and unilateral”:

“This behaviour is not worthy of a company of this size,” Pellerin said. She added that certain Internet companies were guilty of “repeated abusive behaviour” and said she would ask the European Commission and EU member states to better regulate digital platforms, search engines and social media.

The decision comes as Apple is drawing some heat for its broad App Store guidelines that have allowed it to remove some apps that promote App Store content but not others. Apple originally said that AppGratis was removed for breaking a guideline that warns against “Apps that display Apps other than your own for purchase or promotion in a manner similar to or confusing with the App Store.” Apple also said AppGratis was in violation of guideline 5.6 that says “apps cannot use Push Notifications to send advertising, promotions, or direct marketing of any kind.

AllThingsD reported that sources have indicated Apple’s removal of AppGratis is part of a broader crackdown on app discovery applications, but a grey area still remains regarding how Apple decides which apps are approved and which are removed.

Apple told Retuers today that it had discussions with AppGratis prior to the removal and that the developers had “disregarded its technical specifications.” Read more

Apple under fire from governments in both hemispheres over alleged anti-competitive practices

Apple may face an anti-trust investigation in Europe over its iPhone contracts with carriers as it defends itself against separate investigations for alleged price gouging in Australia.

Apple was informed last year that it would be required to attend a hearing by Australia’s Standing Committee on Infrastructure and Communications to explain why its pricing of digital content was higher in Australia than in the United States. The hearing is now underway, as reported by the Sydney Morning Herald, with Apple asked to explain why content sold through iTunes is marked up between 30 and 70 percent higher than in the U.S. Apple is blaming wholesale pricing agreements in the country.

“The pricing of this digital content is based on the wholesale prices which are set through negotiated contracts with the record labels, movie studios and TV networks,” said Mr King, who is Apple’s vice president for Australia, New Zealand and South Asia.

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Apple vs Samsung: Apple loses bid for US ban, new trial over juror misconduct denied, Samsung drops EU sales ban requests

apple-v-samsungToday, we have updates on Apple and Samsung’s ongoing court woes. A report from Bloomberg noted U.S. District Judge Lucy H. Koh in the San Jose, California case rejected Apple’s most recent request for a United States sales ban on 26 Samsung devices. According to the report, Koh said the decision was based on the fact that the “case involves lost sales—not a lost ability to be a viable market participant.”

“Samsung may have cut into Apple’s customer base somewhat, but there is no suggestion that Samsung will wipe out Apple’s customer base, or force Apple out of the business of making smartphones,” Koh said. “The present case involves lost sales — not a lost ability to be a viable market participant.”

As noted by The Verge, a second post-trial order delivered by Koh yesterday denied Samsung’s request for a new trial on the claims of jury misconduct. Koh claimed that juror Velvin Hogan disclosed his previous involvement with Seagate during the jury selection process, giving Samsung’s lawyers more than enough time to discover the litigation. From the court filing:

Samsung has waived its claim for an evidentiary hearing and a new trial based on Mr. Hogan’s alleged dishonesty during voir dire.  Prior to the verdict, Samsung could have discovered Mr. Hogan’s litigation with Seagate, had Samsung acted with reasonable diligence based on information Samsung acquired through voir dire, namely that Mr. Hogan stated during voir dire that he had worked for Seagate.

Samsung vs. Apple cases abroad are also making news today: FossPatents reported today that Samsung has dropped all requests for sales bans against Apple in Europe related to standard-essential patents. However, as pointed out in the report, Samsung will still attempt to win monetary compensation in its cases against Apple, but will no longer request courts to enforce bans on Apple products. FossPatents speculated on Samsung’s decision: Read more

Consumer groups in 10 more EU countries seeking alterations to AppleCare

We reported several times about Italian anti-trust authorities fining Apple $1.2 million for “misleading consumers” in relation to AppleCare warranties. The decision made by the Autorità Garante della Concorrenza e del Mercato stated Apple’s 1-year AppleCare warranties were failing to inform consumers of a mandatory warranty of two years imposed by European Union law. Today we heard confirmation from Bloomberg that not just Italy, but consumer groups from 11 countries, requested that Apple make changes to its AppleCare policies and immediately halt its current “practices on the guarantees.”

Apple products say they come with a one-year warranty when European Union law requires manufacturers cover goods for two years, consumer groups in 11 countries, including Italy and Germany, said in an e-mailed statement today. The groups said they sent letters to national regulators seeking an immediate halt to Apple’s practices on the guarantees

The letter sent by consumer groups comes two days before Apple is set to appeal the $1.2 million fine imposed by Autorità Garante della Concorrenza e del Mercato on March 21. Apple already published the initial anti-trust decision on its website, but the group is asking Apple to also alter its warranty policies and publish a notice to consumers about the changes it made on Apple.com.
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