Brazil dropped a bombshell on Apple this week when that country’s government told the tech giant it can no longer sell iPhones within its borders without a wall charger.
The order comes from Ministry of Justice and Public Security of Brazil (opens in new tab) which claims that Apple is selling an “incomplete product” to people. The Ministry even call the lack of chargers (opens in new tab) a “deliberate discriminatory practice against consumers”. In addition, the Brazilian government is ordering Apple to pay a fine of more than 12 million reais (about US$2.3 million) and the iPhone 12 will no longer be registered with the country’s National Telecommunications Agency; better known as Anatel (opens in new tab). You can think of it as the Brazilian version of the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
According to the announcement, Brazilian authorities do not buy Apple’s argument that the omission of the charger was made out of concern for the environment. The country’s consumer protection agency, Senacon, (Secretaria Nacional do Consumidor), says there is no evidence that selling an iPhone without a charger helps the environment. If anything, it’s a “burden” for consumers (opens in new tab). Senacon retorts by suggesting that Apple switch to USB-C cables and chargers if it really wants to help the environment.
This news comes at a very strange time for Apple, as it comes a day before the company is due to hold its big Far Out September Event (opens in new tab) where people are waiting to see the new iPhone 14. It is unknown if Brazil’s announcement will affect the event or the new device.
We contacted Apple and asked if they would like to make a statement about the ad. This story will be updated if we receive a response.
This suspension is the latest in a series of regulatory challenges, not just from Brazil, but from countries around the world.
Brazil’s challenges, in particular, have been going on for some time. Back in 2021 (opens in new tab), another consumer protection body PROCON-SP (Fundação de Proteção e Defesa do Consumidor do Estado de São Paulo) fined Apple 10.5 million reais (about US$2 million) for similar reasons. It also claims that there is no evidence that the omission of the wall charger helps the environment and that the company has carried out “false advertising”.
Brazil is also looking to copy recent moves by the European Union to require all smartphones to use the same USB-C charging standard. Most modern Android phones already use USB-C cables, so this change will mainly affect Apple, which has been slow to adopt this format. Anatel is leading the charge on this front and intends to implement a USB-C policy for devices by July 1, 2024.
O European Union has already made its move as “it will require all cell phones, tablets and other electronic devices to have a USB-C charging port by the end of 2024”. EU lawmakers were frustrated with the smartphone industry moving at a snail’s pace to find a compromise, so they decided to make a change.
While the EU is forging ahead with a USB-C, things are different with the UK and the US.
The UK in particular, will not require Apple to adopt a single charging standard and has no plans to change that opinion anytime soon. With the United States, neither party has decided to establish a universal charging standard. There is some senators in Congress pushing for a USB-C standard (opens in new tab) but nothing else.
It’s entirely possible that customers in the UK and US will have a different standard than the EU and Brazil if the latter decides to follow through on its USB-C charger promises. But at the same time, it’s also possible that Apple will concede and adopt USB-C for future devices, rather than making two different iPhones with different charging standards for different countries.
The second option looks like a giant manufacturing problem for Apple. At this point, we’ll have to wait and see how Apple responds. Brazil will allow the company to appeal its decision, according to the announcement.
If you’re curious to know what’s coming up at Apple’s Far Out event, be sure to follow along. coverage on September 7.