I have used this directive against Apple and as per the directive they are correct. To invoke the EU directive, the burden of proof is on the consumer, while according to Apple's claims, if you purchase an Apple care product, the benefit of doubt is given to the consumer. (You basically are given somebody else repaired product as they only need it to last the rest of the warranty)
However you are right, Apple do try to ignore any local laws as far as they can get away with. (Contempt of court and the law of the land.) Perhaps the difference with other companies is that they outright lie to you. They did so in my case as well asking me to pay £200 for a replacement at first, stating that EU directives do not apply in the UK. Genius isn't it! ;)
I had the iPad display go faulty about a month after the warranty, and argued that a HW defect of that nature cannot be caused by any consumer interaction, and since iPads do not show the same behaviour after 13 months of use, the only possibility was that it was faulty at the point of manufacture.
It went quiet for a week after that, and then they came back and offered a replacement.
IMHO, for tech products, it is more or less easy to argue this for HW failures. Since the products are manufactured based on probability of failures (HTOL, MTBF, etc), almost any HW failure is pretty much a manufacturing fault at the component/soldering/design level. Right now, manufacturers target a 1 yr life, with wider knowledge of this EU directive, they will have to target 2 years.
Needless to say that iPad was and will be my last Apple product. I thought I was buying a quality brand, turns out I was buying a logo, and supporting corporate arrogance.