In context: Apple started an unfortunate trend of omitting the charger from the box when it announced the iPhone 12 in 2020. Brazil has fought to have the charger back for three generations of iPhone now but has only levied fines that are a drop in the bucket for the world's most valuable company.

The Sao Paulo state court handed down a R$100 million ($19 million) decision against Apple on Thursday. It ruled, for the third time in Brazil, that Apple had violated consumer law by selling iPhones without chargers and ordered the Cupertino company to reverse its unpopular policy. Apple said that it was planning to appeal the verdict.

"It is evident that, under the justification of a 'green initiative,' the defendant imposes on the consumer a required purchase of charger adapters that were previously supplied along with the product," the court said.

Sao Paulo consumer protection agency Procon-SP was the first to open an investigation into Apple's practices in late 2020. It announced in March 2021 that its investigation had stalled after Apple had stopped responding to its requests for information. It fined the company R$10.5 million (then $1.9 million) and told it to put the chargers back in the box for the first time.

Credit: Steve Johnson

"Apple needs to understand that in Brazil, there are solid consumer protection laws and institutions. It needs to respect these laws and these institutions," said the executive director of Procon-SP, Fernando Capez.

Brazil went after Apple again this year in September. The Ministry of Justice and Security fined the company $R12.28 million (about $2.34 million) for omitting the charger from the box on the basis that Apple is selling an incomplete product. It ordered the company to put the chargers back for the second time. Apple obviously hasn't done that yet.

Apple defends its stance by saying that it's friendlier to the environment. Apple executives said on stage during the iPhone 12 announcement that the switch to smaller and lighter packages was predicted to prevent two million tons of carbon from entering the atmosphere each year. It was also meant to reduce the number of unused chargers that become e-waste but analysis after the fact has found that the impact of the change was likely minimal.

Brazil's National Consumer Secretariat (Senacon) has argued against Apple's claims about environmental concerns. It says that Apple could employ more effective measures to protect the environment, like replacing the Lightning port with USB-C. Brazil announced a proposal to make USB-C mandatory in all phones starting on July 1, 2024, earlier this year.

Masthead: Will Porada