Apple Agrees to Settle FTC's Deceptive-Ad Complaint

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Apple Computer Inc. has agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that an ad campaign promising free technical assistance to customers was deceptive.

The "Apple Assurance" campaign, which ran from September, 1992, to April, 1996, and covered most of the company's hardware products, included a claim that Apple would provide free technical support for as long as the buyer owned the machine. However, the FTC alleges that the Cupertino, CA-based computer maker had been charging those customers $35 for access to technical support services.

As part of the proposed settlement, which does not constitute an admission that it violated any laws, Apple would reimburse all those customers who had been charged for technical support and would reinstate the free service. "Thousands" of customers are affected, sources said.

"For prospective purchasers of computer products, free access to live technical support is especially enticing," said Jodie Bernstein, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, in a prepared statement. "Companies that make such offers have to live up to their promises."

Apple did not immediately return phone calls.

The FTC will make a final decision on the proposed settlement after a 60-day period for public comment.

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