Why it matters: Apple made waves when they announced that the iPhone 12 would ship without a charging brick to prevent unnecessary electronic waste. It’s since become apparent that the environmental benefits were mostly fanciful, but it’s too late; recent sales figures show that Apple’s customer base wasn’t deterred by the charger’s absence.
Procon-SP, the consumer protection agency of Sao Paulo, Brazil, is biting back at Apple with a R$ 10.5 million ($1.9 million) fine. They haven’t accepted Apple’s justifications for the charger’s removal, and have added it to their list of charges against the Cupertino company.
When Apple confirmed the charger’s removal, they said that the reduction in e-waste and the reduction in emissions caused by the smaller and lighter boxes had a cumulative effect equal to preventing two million tons of carbon from entering the atmosphere. Analysts have since concluded, broadly, that the real benefits were less significant than that, but that the change did increase Apple’s profits by a handsome margin.
Last November, Procon-SP announced that they were investigating Apple’s decision to remove the charger. But midway through their investigation, Apple reportedly stopped responding to requests for information. Procon-SP weren't able to get clear answers to their key queries, which sought to determine if Apple passed on their cost savings to the consumer, and if Apple slowed charger production. Without a response, the agency was forced to reach a guilty verdict.
"Apple needs to understand that in Brazil, there are solid consumer protection laws and institutions. It needs to respect these laws and these institutions."
Parts of the fine are also for misleading advertising, bad customer support, and unfair terms of service. Procon-SP cites Apple’s refusal to repair some iPhone 11 Pros damaged by water, after advertising them as waterproof, as an example of all three.
Apple has the option to contest the fine in court. They'd have good chances if they did. Some of Procon-SP's charges have already fallen flat elsewhere, and because other device manufacturers have started ditching the charger, they could probably pass it off as reasonable.
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