In brief: Apple is being sued in China over its decision to stop bundling a wall charger with every iPhone sold, which is seen as a move that's primarily motivated by profit. While the lawsuit doesn't resemble the high stakes litigation that usually makes the press, it has garnered extensive public support because many consumers aren't happy when they buy an arguably expensive product only to find they also need to buy a wall charger to use it.
Apple is already embroiled in a number of legal fights, but there’s always room for one more, especially when it revolves around its flagship product — the iPhone. According to a report from Vice, a group of students from several Chinese universities are suing the Cupertino company for its change of policy when it comes to including a charger in the box.
Starting with the iPhone 12, Apple no longer bundles a charger in the box with its iPhones, and the same is true for the EarPods that used to be included as well. What you get instead is a USB-C to Lightning cable, presumably to reduce waste and carbon emissions. Many people own enough chargers already, but that hasn’t stopped some from falling under the perception that Apple is doing penny-pinching to improve its profit margins on 5G-enabled iPhones, which are more expensive to make.
It didn’t take long before Apple realized that it had ignored consumers who are buying their first smartphone or simply don’t have compatible chargers lying around at home. To make up for the lack of a charger and EarPods in the box, the company chose to reduce their price as a gesture of goodwill. However, the Chinese students that are suing Apple argue the company is simply using its efforts to save the environment as a pretext to squeeze more profit by selling accessories that are needed to keep the device functioning.
The students took Apple to the Beijing Internet Court, where they allege they weren’t able to charge their iPhone 12 and 12 Pro Max units as advertised on the company’s website, and that the included cable isn’t compatible with most third-party chargers on the market, which still come with a USB-A port. In its defense, Apple said that selling the device and charger separately is a common practice for phone makers, possibly referring to Samsung and Xiaomi.
Image: Apple's MagSafe charger that was introduced with the iPhone 12
Interestingly, this legal fight looks more like an effort to prove a point that consumers aren’t happy when they aren’t given a choice, especially with such an expensive device like the iPhone. The students are only demanding to be provided with a wall charger, 100 yuan (around $15.5) for breach of contract, as well as for Apple to cover the legal fees.
The case has seen extensive public support on Chinese social media platforms like Weibo, and some speculate it could lead to more regulatory scrutiny in the region. It’s worth noting this isn’t the first time Apple has faced legal issues for this particular issue.
Back in March, Brazil fined the Cupertino giant $2 million for choosing not to ship chargers with the iPhone 12. If a decision will be made in favor of the Chinese students suing Apple, it will also extend to the iPhone 13 and all subsequent models.
In related news, a San Francisco man has filed a lawsuit against Apple for refusing to repair his iPhone 12 while it was still under warranty.