The Belgian consumer organisation Test-Aankoop has sued the Apple distributor Switch and its parent company SFAM following a flood of consumers’ complaints. Disgruntled customers are being lured into unwanted insurance policies, which they struggle to cancel afterwards. It is also not the first time that the company has been criticised.
Before many realised it, Switch customers signed up for additional insurance or subscriptions. Consumers are often under the delusion that this is merely a cashback promotion without realising that additional monthly costs are involved. The number of complaints is high, 466 since September 2020, so the consumer organisation Test-Aankoop is filing a double complaint with the relevant authorities. In January alone, there were nearly 50 complaints.
Switch customers reported that when they bought an Apple device, Swith offered them a (temporarily) free insurance or a cashback, according to Test-Aankoop. “Consumers have to sign several documents for this without being given the time to read everything.” In this way, they would usually sign up for an insurance contract for a year, a subscription to a gift voucher or for the creation of a website without knowing it.
“Well thought out strategy”
Afterwards, it would also be difficult for consumers to get rid of subscriptions within the legal cooling-off period, as customer service is hardly accessible. “The complaints from consumers are so numerous that we can only conclude that this is a well-thought-out strategy by Switch and SFAM”, concludes the Consumers’ Association. The French insurance company SFAM has been the owner of Switch since 2020.
Test-Aankoop filed a complaint against both companies with the Economic Inspection and the market authority FSMA. The Economic Inspection monitors companies’ obligation to provide the necessary information in advance, while the market authority has established rules around insurance mediation to counter such abuses.
Noteworthy: in 2019, SFAM was already sentenced to a fine of 10 million euros in France for virtually the same activities. At the time, when buying a device, mainly at Fnac, customers unwittingly signed up for an insurance contract. A cashback discount (of 30 euros) was used as bait. So the insurer seems to be simply moving its territory.