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Practices of Apple Inc. – Wikipedia

Overview of the criticism of Apple Inc.
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The corporate practices of Apple include Apple Inc.’s impact on the environment, relationships with governments, litigation it has been party to, its manufacturing practices, Apple’s market impact, its media relations, product-related practices, and payment of taxes.

Critics have accused Apple of engaging in anti-competitive behavior, aggressive litigation, tax avoidance, the use of sweatshop labor, excessively locking down its products, playing a role in the surveillance economy, excessive compliance with governments, and of having an adverse environmental impact.

Environment

Timeline of improvements

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In 1990, Apple officially released and implemented its environmental policy, while in 1991, a phase-out of lead in batteries began. In 1992, Apple officially became a founding member of the U.S. EPA Energy Star program, which was developed to identify and promote energy-efficient computers and monitors. During this time, there was also a phase-out of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in Apple manufacturing, which are substances that deplete the ozone layer. In 1994, there was also a phase-out of nickel-cadmium batteries, while in 1995, PVC in packaging materials was phased out as well. The first Apple manufacturing site in Sacramento, California became ISO 14001 certified.

ISO 14001:2004 set the criteria for an environmental management system, mapping out a framework that a company or an organization can use. If one chooses to use ISO 14001:2004, it can provide assurance to company management and employees as well as external stakeholders that environmental impact is being measured and improved. The benefits of using ISO 14001:2004 are reduced cost of waste management, saving in consumption of energy and materials, lower distribution costs, and improved corporate image among regulators, customers, and the public.

In 1997, the first Apple products were tested for conformity to TCO Certified standards. TCO Certified standards involve requirements that cover a variety of issues: environment, ergonomics, usability, emission of electrical and magnetic fields, and energy consumption, and electrical fire safety. For example, environmental demands restrict the use of heavy metals, chlorinated solvents, and other various things. Mainly, products that are labeled must meet these environmental demands. Two years after Apple agreed to meet TCO Certified’s standards, in 1999, Apple introduced “Apple Product Environmental Specifications (APES) files”, in which lead and cadmium in cables were restricted. Shortly after, in 2000, all of Apple’s manufacturing sites became ISO 14001 certified worldwide. This accredited that Apple had a structured environmental management system (EMS) in order to manage the environmental impact of their operations.

In 2001, Apple computers and displays first met Energy Star requirements, in which they voluntarily phased out tetrabromobisphenol A (TBBPA) in all their plastic enclosure parts greater than 25 grams. They also began to purchase 100 percent of electricity for the Austin facility from renewable sources, called Austin’s “Green Choice” Power Program.

In 2002, Apple continued to build a more environmentally friendly effort. For example, Apple signed the European Union Code of Conduct on Power Supplies, which encourages manufacturers to design power supplies that minimize energy consumption in “off” mode. In 2004, there was a phaseout of substances included in the European Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) Directive was initiated. Importantly noted, The Apple Supplier Code of Conduct was implemented in 2005, and in 2006, Apple was the first computer manufacturer to replace CRT displays with material-efficient and energy-efficient LCDs.

In June 2006, Apple temporarily stopped selling the eMac desktop computer and the AirPort wireless router in Europe, as they were non-compliant with the European Union’s directive on harmful substances.

In 2007, Apple shareholders voted on a proposal to eliminate persistent and bioaccumulative toxic chemicals, speed up the phase-out of toxic chemicals such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and brominated flame retardants (BFRs), and adopt a stronger e-waste “take-back” and recycling program. Shortly afterwards, Steve Jobs published an open letter claiming that “Apple is ahead of, or will soon be ahead of, most of its competitors in these areas”.

In 2008, Apple introduced the unibody MacBook and MacBook Pro, which is made with recyclable aluminum and glass enclosures with arsenic and mercury-free displays. It is also made with PVC-free internal components. The MacBook Air was the first Mac to use mercury-free backlight technology with arsenic-free LCD display glass. Along with that, the iPhone 3G shipped with PVC-free handset, headphones, and USB cables; BFR-free printed circuit boards; and a mercury and arsenic-free display. Apple achieved a recycling rate of 41.9%.

In 2009, Apple revealed a complete life cycle analysis of greenhouse gas emissions, which set a new standard of full environmental disclosure. Apple is the only company in the industry that publishes the environmental footprint of each of its products. Other companies only report on a fraction of their emissions. All of their products became BFR-free with shipping and mercury-free LED-backlit displays with arsenic-free display glass. The Mac mini, iMac, and Mac Pro met the Energy Star 5.0 specification.

In 2010, all displays that were offered by Apple became mercury-free and used arsenic-free display glass. Apple introduced the Apple Battery charger for rechargeable batteries, which reduces battery waste by 78% and the carbon footprint by 63% over a four-year period. Also, Apple introduced the Mac mini, which was the world’s most energy-efficient desktop computer, because it can operate on 10 watts of electricity (which is less power than a single energy-efficient CFL lightbulb). By this time, Apple also began to build facilities in Cork, Ireland; Austin, Texas; and Sacramento, California, and converted to using 100% renewable energy.

In 2011, Apple introduced iTunes cards that use 100% recyclable paper, and they also introduced the Mac App Store in 123 countries. Delivering digital downloads reduces the environmental impact of delivering software by eliminating the packaging and transportation. Apple also eliminates restore DVDs that were previously included in Mac product packaging.

In 2011, Greenpeace called on Apple to power its data centers with renewable energy. In early 2013 Apple announced it was now using 100% renewable energy to power their data centers, and that 75% of the ocmpany’s overall power use came from renewable sources. That same year, Chinese environmental group Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs (IPE) accused Apple’s Chinese suppliers of discharging polluted waste and toxic metals into surrounding communities and threatening public health.

In 2012, Apple launched the redesigned iMac, using 68% less material and generating 67% fewer carbon emissions than earlier generations. Also, the aluminum stand on the iMac is made using 30% recycled content. Meanwhile, at their headquarters in Cupertino, energy use was cut by over 30%, and Apple provided a biogas-powered fuel cell and built rooftop solar photovoltaic systems. They introduced their redesigned AirPort Express with an enclosure containing bio-based polymers derived from industrial-grade rapeseed and post-consumer recycled PC-ABS plastic. In June 2012, Apple withdrew its product line from the global registry for greener electronics program, Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT), reporting the line no longer qualified for EPEAT’s ratings for green certification; the San Francisco Department of Environment then notified its agencies that Apple computers no longer qualified for city purchase funds. The line of products has since been added back.

Criticism by Greenpeace

See also: Criticism of Greenpeace § Greener Electronics campaign

Greenpeace has criticized Apple for having products that they saw as unfriendly to the environment. In 2007, Greenpeace wrote an article explaining the hazardous materials that have been found in the iPhone, such as vinyl (PVC) plastic with phthalates, along with brominated compounds. Greenpeace also mentions in a different article from 2004 that Apple had refused to take the step of phasing out toxic chemicals in all of their products. They argued that Sony was removing toxins from their TVs, and that Samsung, Nokia, and Puma had also announced to phase out toxic chemicals in all of their products, yet Apple was not playing their part in the issue.

Because of Greenpeace’s concern, they published a ranking guide in 2006 to improve policies and practices regarding the process of “going green”. Greenpeace reached out to Apple’s fans and consumers in attempt to gain the attention of Steve Jobs in September 2006. In order to do this, they launched a “Green my Apple” website that was designed to look like Apple’s site. The caption on the site was, “I love my Mac. I just wish it came in green.” They called this the “Green my Apple” campaign. Ultimately, their campaign was successful. Steve Jobs spoke of the company’s desire to become greener in 2007.

Much later, in November 2012, Greenpeace created a ranking of companies in their progression toward greener products and waste management Apple moved up to number six (out of sixteen), just behind Dell. Number one was WIPRO, and number sixteen was RIM. Apple scored a six due to the company’s lack of transparency on GHG emission reporting, clean energy advocacy, further information on its management of toxic chemicals, and details on post-consumer recycled plastic use. Despite that Apple lost points on Greenpeace’s e-waste criteria, Apple exceeded its 70% goal of global recycling in 2010. Greenpeace argues that the company can increase its score by setting an ambitious goal for boosting its renewable energy use by 2020. Apple also did not plan to phase out antimony or beryllium in their products, but overall, score well on the product criteria. For example, the MacBook Pro has been known for easy recycling.

Apple has been making progress since 2006 regarding greener tactics and products. Presently in 2013, Apple states that they achieve to power every Apple facility with energy from renewable sources. They have already achieved this goal at facilities in Austin, Cork, Munich, and at the Infinite Loop campus in Cupertino. Currently, Apple’s corporate facilities worldwide are at 75% renewable energy.

Government relations

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Belarus

During the 2020 Belarusian protests against president Alexander Lukashenko, Telegram founder Pavel Durov claimed that Apple demanded the blocking of three chat groups or channels of the Belarusian protest movement. Members of these groups had shared the personal information of police officers who were accused of helping to suppress the protests. Apple responded by declaring that they did not call for the channels to be removed, but instead asked him to delete personal information from these channels.

China

Some Apple products can be engraved when ordered through the online Apple Store. However, the store does not allow Chinese users to use words like democracy or human rights. Apple has also removed apps with Muslim religious content, like Quran apps, from the App Store. In November 2022, after the start of protests about COVID-19 in China, Apple released a software update specific to Chinese users that automatically turns off AirDrop after 10 minutes. For years, AirDrop had been used by protesters in China to communicate with each other.

Hong Kong

See also: HKmap.live § iOS app

On October 9, 2019, Apple removed HKmap.live from the App Store based on claims made by the Hong Kong Police Force that the app was being used by protesters to aid in violent attacks on police. On October 10, Apple CEO Tim Cook sent a memo to employees defending his decision. On October 18, U.S. lawmakers addressed a letter to Tim Cook expressing concerns regarding the removal of HKmap.live, among other apps.

Russia

In 2019, Apple labelled Crimea as part of Russia in Apple Maps, specifically for users who were accessing the app with a Crimean IP address. Users in the rest of the world were showed Crimea as belonging to Ukraine. The company’s move was criticised by the Ukrainian government. Apple clarified that they were complying with local laws.

Apple removed the Smart Voting app from the App Store before the 2021 Russian legislative election. The application, which had been created by associates of imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny, offered voting advice for all voting districts in Russia. It was removed after a meeting with Russian Federation Council officials on 16 September 2021. Apple also reportedly disabled its iCloud Private Relay privacy feature which masks users’ browsing activity. Russian opposition figures condemned these moves as political censorship.

United States

In June 2013, in one of several global surveillance disclosures, leaked National Security Agency documents listed Apple as a member of the PRISM surveillance program, which let the U.S. government secretly access the data of non-American citizens hosted by American companies without a warrant. Following the leak, government officials acknowledged the existence of the program. According to the leaked documents, the NSA had direct access to those companies’ servers, and the amount of data collected through the program had been growing in the years prior to the leak. Apple has denied having any knowledge of the program.

Litigation

Main article: Apple Inc. litigation

In November 2008, Apple sent a cease and desist letter to BluWiki, a non-commercial wiki provider, alleging a violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Apple claimed that a discussion of how to get other hardware and software to interoperate with the latest iPods infringed their copyrights. On April 27, 2009, Odioworks (the operators of BluWiki), backed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, sued Apple in OdioWorks v. Apple, seeking a declaration of non-infringement and non-circumvention (an official response that Apple’s intellectual property rights were not being infringed upon). On July 8, 2009, Apple ceased claiming infringement, stating that Apple withdrew its takedown notifications, and that “Apple no longer has, nor will it have in the future, any objection to the publication of the itunesDB Pages which are the subject of the OdioWorks complaint.” The EFF noted, “While we are glad that Apple retracted its baseless legal threats, we are disappointed that it only came after 7 months of censorship and a lawsuit.”

Google has accused Apple (alongside Oracle, Microsoft, and others) of trying to take down Android through patent litigation, rather than innovating and competing with better products and services. This ties into Apple’s recent patent infringement lawsuits against Samsung, which by July 2012, included more than 50 lawsuits around the globe, with billions of dollars in damages claimed between them. Named as a third party in the suit, Google claims that this is another tactic by Apple to defeat Android, citing Apple’s asking a judge to force Google to hand over documents containing Android’s source code.

Manufacturing

See also: Apple worker organizations

Many reports allege that sweatshop conditions existed in factories in China, where the contract manufacturers, Foxconn and Inventec, operate the factories that produce the iPod. One iPod factory, as an example, employed over 200,000 workers who lived and worked in the factory, and regularly performed more than 60 hours of labor per week. The article also reported that workers made around US$100 per month and were required to live on the premises and pay for rent and food from the company. Living expenses—a requirement of keeping the job—typically required that employees spend a little over half of their earnings. The article also said that workers were given buckets to wash their clothes in.

Immediately after the allegation, Apple launched an investigation and worked with their manufacturers to ensure that conditions were acceptable by its standards. In 2007, Apple started yearly audits of the labor conditions of all its suppliers, slowly raising standards and severing relationships with suppliers that did not comply—yearly progress reports have also been published since 2008.

In 2010, workers in China planned to sue iPhone contractors over poisoning from a cleaner used to clean LCD screens. One worker claimed that they were not informed of possible occupational illnesses.

A 2014 BBC investigation found excessive hours and other problems persisted, despite Apple’s promise to reform factory practice after the 2010 Foxconn suicides. The Pegatron factory was once again the subject of review, as reporters gained access to the working conditions inside through recruitment as employees. While the BBC maintained that the experiences of its reporters showed that labor violations were continuing since 2010, Apple publicly disagreed with the BBC and stated: “We are aware of no other company doing as much as Apple to ensure fair and safe working conditions”.

In the period following these exposures, Apple has continued to receive criticism for its labor rights record. Reports in 2015 and 2016 from the labor rights organization, China Labor Watch, noted that Apple’s supplier Pegatron’s wages were too low to cover living costs by themselves, forcing workers to put in excessive amounts of overtime hours in order to make ends meet.

In February 2020, a report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute listed Apple as a company that was “potentially directly or indirectly benefiting” from forced Uyghur labor. In 2020, Apple lobbyists tried to weaken the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, a U.S. bill against forced labor in Xinjiang, China.

Foxconn

Apple’s considerable commercial success is partly attributable to the outsourcing of its consumer electronics production to Asia. As the principal manufacturer of products and components for Apple, Taiwanese company Foxconn employed 1.4 million China-based workers in 2013. The workers are part of China’s “floating population” of 200 million migrants, at the bottom of what Taiwanese tech entrepreneur Stan Shih calls “the smiling curve”. Controlling the upturned edges of the smile—brand, design, and engineering on one side, and marketing, sales, and external relations on the other—is what ensures major profit margins.

Apple, Foxconn and China’s workers are stakeholders in high-technology production, but relations between the three are perceived by analysts as imbalanced. Apple was able to capture 58.5 percent of the value of the iPhone, despite the fact that the manufacture of the product is entirely outsourced. Particularly notable is that labor costs in China account for the smallest share: 1.8 percent, or nearly US$10, of the US$549 retail price. While both Apple and Foxconn rely on Chinese workers to perform 12-hour working days to meet demand, the costs of Chinese labor in processing and assembly are insignificant in the overall commercial success of Apple. Other major component providers—such as Samsung and LG—captured slightly over 14 percent of the value of the iPhone, while the cost of raw materials was just over one-fifth of the total value (21.9 percent).

Wages average from $1 to $2 an hour for Foxconn workers, including overtime, and are dependent upon location—such rates are attractive by China’s rural standards. Foxconn workers typically complete 50-hour work weeks and 12-hour shifts; however, work weeks of up to 100 hours are not unheard of during peak production periods. Foxconn workers typically cannot afford the iPads and iPhones they assemble.

In 2009 and 2010, the Foxconn factories at the Foxconn City industrial park in Longhua, Shenzhen, China, were heavily criticized in the press, with one source describing conditions as a “white collar prison”. In 2009, Foxconn guards were videotaped beating employees.

Foxconn employee suicides

On July 16, 2009, Sun Danyong, a Chinese factory worker employed by Foxconn, committed suicide, after reporting that he lost a prototype model for a fourth generation iPhone. Upon filing his report on July 13, Chinese media reported that his residence was searched by Foxconn employees, and that he was beaten and interrogated by his superiors—actions that are illegal under both Chinese and American law. The incident raised questions regarding Apple’s secrecy policy and working conditions in their Chinese factories. An Apple spokesman told reporters that the company was “saddened by the tragic loss of this young employee.” Apple’s relationship with Foxconn regarding corporate security has been a continuing subject of controversy since Sun Danyong’s death.

Apple policy on how it influences the corporate culture of its suppliers is presented in the “Supplier Responsibility Progress Reports” document. Holding suppliers accountable for their errors and omissions in their relationship with Apple is an area of concern Apple takes seriously. In one report, Apple stated:

[our] procurement decisions take into account a facility’s social responsibility performance, along with factors such as quality, cost, and timely delivery. When social responsibility performance consistently fails to meet Apple expectations, we terminate business.

Given Apple’s stated policy at the time of the death, terminating relationships with such suppliers was potentially difficult without incurring huge financial losses.

Later in April 2010, four workers committed suicide in a single month in the same factory, signifying the beginning of the 2010 “Foxconn suicides” incident. By May 2010, 12 workers had committed suicide at Foxconn’s operations in China – although the number of suicides was lower than the general suicide rate in China. Apple, HP, and others stated that they were investigating the situation. A total of 18 suicide attempts were recorded at the Foxconn facility in 2010, with 14 attempts resulting in deaths.

In response to the suicides, Foxconn substantially increased wages for its Shenzhen factory workforce, installed suicide-prevention netting, brought in Buddhist monks to conduct prayer sessions inside the factory, and asked employees to sign no-suicide pledges. Workers were also forced to sign a legally binding document guaranteeing that they and their descendants would not sue the company as a result of unexpected death, self-injury, or suicide. After the changes were implemented, it was not clear how employees who fail to abide by the terms of the new agreement will be sanctioned.

Labor force

Foxconn’s use of students and minors is part of its pursuit of low-cost, flexible labor. When the fallout of the 2010 suicides left Foxconn with a labor shortage, the Henan provincial government assisted with the breach. The province directed 100,000 vocational students to staff the Shenzhen assembly lines as “interns” (the Chinese term shixi can also mean “trainee”) after providing them with nine days’ notice. Students were told that those who failed to comply would not be allowed to graduate.

Interns have become a significant component of Foxconn’s labor force, constituting as high as 15 percent of the workforce—or 180,000 interns company-wide—at peak times, making it the largest “internship” program in the world. Teachers have been stationed in the factory compound to monitor attendance, and some interns have been as young as 14—by the company’s own admission—thereby violating Chinese laws. According to SACOM’s Chan, Foxconn, and other similar manufacturers, are “covertly” using interns to avoid detection and culpability. The young people are hired through the same labor agencies that hire Foxconn’s “dispatch workers”, who are deprived of standard benefits and protections.

US-based China Labour Watch (CLW) investigated into conditions at three factories operated by Pegatron, which makes equipment for Apple computers and iPhones, and found that Pegatron hired children under the age of 18—the child laborers worked under the same poor conditions as adult staff. In total, 10,000 employees aged between 16 and 20 worked in crowded production rooms, performing the same tasks as adults. Some of the children were paid less, and others did not have their wages paid on time.

In 2020, The Information reported that Apple discovered on multiple occasions that one of its Chinese-suppliers, Suyin Electronics, relied on child labor, but took three years to fully cut ties with the company. Ten former members of Apple’s supplier responsibility team said that Apple has been slow to cut ties with other suppliers that repeatedly violate Apple’s labor policies when doing so would decrease profits.

Working conditions

Workers who assemble iPhones, iPads, and other devices often labor under harsh conditions, according to employees inside the Foxconn plants. According to company reports and advocacy, Apple’s suppliers in China have improperly disposed of hazardous waste and falsified records.

Forty-nine young workers were poisoned at the Lianjian Technology factory in Suzhou Industrial Park by the toxic chemical hexane, used to wipe clean the iPad display screens and speed up efficiency. To save money, the factory did not provide proper ventilation during the cleaning process, and workers developed neurological problems, the loss of motor function, numb limbs, and complained of constantly fainting and being overcome by a debilitating fatigue. Some of these sick workers were eventually bought off with a lump payment of 8,000 or 9,000 yuan (US$1,200–$1,400), but only after signing an agreement stating they would not bring claims against Apple or its supplier companies in the future.

An explosion in May 2011 at a Foxconn iPad factory in Chengdu, China, killed four people and injured 18. Employees worked excessive overtime—in some cases, seven days a week—and lived in crowded dorms. Some said they stand so long that their legs swell until they can hardly walk.

Market impact

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App Store app review

Adobe Flash

Main article: Apple and Adobe Flash controversy

With the release of iOS 4.0 SDK, Apple changed its developer agreement to prohibit programs that are originally written in non-Apple approved languages from being used on the iPhone. This was criticized for being anti-competitive by disallowing use of Adobe Animate (formerly Adobe Flash Professional) and other IDEs for creating iPhone apps. The New York Times quoted an Adobe employee alleging the policy to be anti-competitive. On May 3, 2010, Ars Technica and the New York Post reported that the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) are deciding which agency will launch an antitrust investigation into the matter. Steve Jobs posted a reaction entitled “Thoughts on Flash”, but did not directly address any third party development tools other than Adobe’s Flash platform.

Copyright infringement

In 2012, multiple groups of Chinese writers were awarded compensation of over $200,000 from Apple for hosting apps that contained unlicensed versions of their books, according to Chinese state media.

Google Voice

Apple has been criticized over attempting to prevent iPhone users from using the Google Voice application by disabling it on the iPhone. Apple declined to approve the Google application for use on the iPhone, claiming that the application altered iPhone intended functionality, i.e., that with Google voice installation, voicemail is no longer routed to the iPhone’s native application Visual Voicemail but instead is routed through Google’s application, thus “ruining” the iPhone user experience. This caused controversy among iPhone developers and users, and the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) began investigating Apple’s active decision to deny users’ ability to install Google Voice from the Apple online store which is the only official way for users to download and install iPhone applications. As of November 2010, Google Voice has been made available for the iPhone.

Takedown of competitors’ apps

In November 2015, f.lux, a popular computer program for adjusting a display’s colors during night-time to remove blue-light that may affect sleep patterns, was made available for iOS devices through “sideloading”; users install Xcode, a development environment for Mac computers, and manually install the app on their iOS device, bypassing the App Store and the official release channels that do not grant required permissions for f.lux to work. A day later, the developers of f.lux made the sideloading app unavailable, having been contacted by Apple with information that such a procedure violates the Developer Program Agreement. In March 2016, an update to the iOS operating system enabled Apple’s own “Night Shift” implementation, and the “Night Shift” feature was later expanded to the macOS operating system in March 2017. After the iOS availability, the f.lux developers issued an official press release, praising Apple’s efforts as “a big commitment and an important first step”, though acknowledging itself as “the original innovators and leaders in this area”. They also requested that Apple open up access for f.lux to enter the App Store, thereby supporting its mission in “furthering research in sleep and chronobiology”. Following the native macOS availability, an f.lux developer posted in its forums in March 2017 that the macOS version was more limited in its actual impact by not reducing the levels of blue light enough. That was in direct contrast to the f.lux app, which significantly reduced the color.

Similar criticisms emerged in 2019, when Apple was reported to have demanded changes or the removal of apps involving parental controls and device usage tracking; the latter had been introduced to iOS 12 under the banner “Screen Time”. After a report on the matter by The New York Times, which stated that Apple had, “removed 11 to 17 of the most downloaded screen-time and parental-control apps”. Apple stated that these demands were to due to privacy concerns surrounding their use of mobile device management features to gain system-level access—which it considered inappropriate outside of an enterprise setting, and a particular privacy risk to devices used by children.

App Store fees

iOS applications available through the App Store that require payments for features or membership are required to use Apple’s iTunes payments system, granting the company a 30% cut of all transactions. This policy has been criticized as taking an unreasonably large amount of money for each transaction, with comparisons being made to the typical 1-5% cut that credit card companies require and the 1-10% cut that some online marketplaces require. Some experts have also compared the App Store fee to rent-seeking.

Spotify

In July 2015, music-streaming service Spotify sent an email to its iOS subscribers, urging them to cancel their App Store subscriptions, wait for expiration, and then sign up for paid membership through Spotify’s website, bypassing the 30% App Store transaction fee and making the service more affordable. Approximately a year later, Recode reported that Spotify’s general counsel Horacio Gutierrez had sent a letter to Apple’s then-general counsel Bruce Sewell, saying that the company was “causing grave harm to Spotify and its customers” because it wouldn’t approve an update to the Spotify app. Apple hadn’t approved the new version due to “business model rules”, requiring that Spotify use the iTunes payments system if it “wants to use the app to acquire new customers and sell subscriptions”. Gutierrez severely criticized the chain of events, writing that “This latest episode raises serious concerns under both U.S. and EU competition law. … It continues a troubling pattern of behavior by Apple to exclude and diminish the competitiveness of Spotify on iOS and as a rival to Apple Music, particularly when seen against the backdrop of Apple’s previous anticompetitive conduct aimed at Spotify.” He also described the App Store approval process as a “weapon to harm competitors”. In a response reported by BuzzFeed News, Bruce Sewell said that “We find it troubling that you are asking for exemptions to the rules we apply to all developers and are publicly resorting to rumors and half-truths about our service”, adding that “Our guidelines apply equally to all app developers, whether they are game developers, e-book sellers, video-streaming services or digital music distributors; and regardless of whether or not they compete against Apple”. Sewell further claimed that the company “did not alter our behavior or our rules” when introducing its own Apple Music streaming service and that there was “nothing in Apple’s conduct” to support anti-competitive claims. Zach Epstein of BGR opined that Spotify was angry because “it’s not a non-profit” that did not have free rein over its app built on another company’s service, and concluded with the remark that “Apparently, Apple shouldn’t be compensated for giving Spotify access to tens of millions of potential subscribers”.

In August 2016, Spotify began “punishing” artists who offered Apple Music exclusives by featuring their content less prominently on its service and offering fewer promotional opportunities. In May 2017, Financial Times reported that Spotify, as well as several other companies, had filed a letter with the European Union, alleging that “some” operating systems, app stores and search engines had abused their “privileged position” to go from being “gateways” to “gatekeepers”. A few days later, Reuters reported that the European Union was preparing new laws and legislation intended to handle conflicts between large corporations and smaller businesses, specifically in regards to “unfair trading practices”. Another letter was sent in December 2017, once again accusing Apple of “regularly abusing” its position, and asking for regulators to step in and “ensure ‘a level playing field'”.

Fortnite

Main article: Epic Games v. Apple

On August 13, 2020, Epic Games added a direct payment system to Fortnite in order to bypass Apple’s App Store fees. In response, Apple removed the game from the App Store, preventing new players from downloading the game. On the same day, Epic Games released a video attacking Apple titled Nineteen-Eighty-Fortnite with similarities to the Apple advertisement 1984. Simultaneously, Epic released a complaint for Injunctive Relief against Apple. In September 2020, Epic Games and thirteen other companies launched the Coalition for App Fairness which aims for better conditions for the inclusion of apps in the app store.

iTunes

Main article: iTunes

Apple was caught up in controversy regarding the online sales of music in the European Union where, as a single market, customers are free to purchase goods and services from any member state. iTunes Stores forced consumers and other music buyers to iTunes-only sites by restricting content purchases to the country from which the customers’ payment details originated, which in turn forced users in some countries to pay higher prices. On December 3, 2004, the British Office of Fair Trading referred to the iTunes Music Store to the European Commission for violation of EU free-trade legislation. Apple commented that they did not believe they violated EU law, but were restricted by legal limits to the rights granted to them by the music labels and publishers. PC World commented that it appeared that “the Commission’s main target is not Apple but the music companies and music rights agencies, which work on a national basis and give Apple very little choice but to offer national stores”.

Alleged collusion with record labels

In May 2015, it was reported that the U.S. Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission were beginning to investigate Apple for engaging in a cartel with major record labels that discourage them from offering free, ad-supported streaming of their music online, in order to push users towards a re-launch of the subscription-based Beats Music service. In particular, it was alleged that Apple had pushed labels to pull their music from the freemium tier of competing service Spotify (a service which has cut into Apple’s music sales revenue), and offered to pay Universal Music Group the equivalent of YouTube’s licensing fees with the label in exchange for pulling its content from the service.

Media relations

Apple has also been criticized for its methods of tightly controlling information regarding product launches, deliberately passing out misinformation in an effort to find leakers and keep the media unsure of Apple Inc.’s current developments. Therefore, Apple’s methods result in more hype surrounding product launches. In some cases, Apple deliberately leaks information to the public to gauge potential viability of products such as the iPad. Many attribute Apple’s secrecy to Steve Jobs’ reclusive nature where “he has always kept things close to the vest … and only confided in relatively few people.”

Think Secret lawsuit

Main article: Apple Inc. litigation
Further information: Think Secret and Apple v. Does

With regard to leaked information about new Apple products, Apple has been accused of pressuring journalists to release their sources, has filed lawsuits against unknown persons, “John Does”, to find out how their product information has been leaked and has been chastised by the courts for doing so as an abuse of the legal discovery process. In particular, Apple fought a protracted battle against the Think Secret website that resulted in a “positive solution for both sides”. No sources were revealed.

Gizmodo incident

In April 2010, Gizmodo editor Jason Chen became the subject of legal controversy in San Mateo, California, when the California Rapid Enforcement Allied Computer Team—a multi-county task force that investigates high-tech crimes in the Silicon Valley area, of whose steering committee Apple is a member—seized computers from the editor’s home office, ostensibly to investigate the reverse-engineering of an iPhone prototype. Prior to its discovery in a bar, the device had been in the possession of an Apple employee celebrating a birthday. The Gizmodo blog published an article the week prior about the iPhone product’s future, including a product dissection, after Chen’s purchase of a misplaced iPhone device.

Gawker Media published the warrant on its website as an example of over-reaching by Apple and its improper use of law enforcement to police its patents. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has also come to the defense of Gizmodo, citing the Privacy Protection Act of 1980 that protects journalists from police “rummaging through sensitive information contained in a reporter’s notes and communications”, and the warrant served was too broad, as it included “all records and data located and/or stored on any computers, hard drives, or memory storage devices, located at the listed location.”

Products

Digital wellbeing

In January 2018, investors JANA Partners and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System issued a public letter to Apple, Inc. The letter called upon the company to take additional responsibility for the “unintentional negative consequences” that iPhones may have on younger users, and to seek out new ways to limit these effects. In June 2018, Apple launched a new iOS feature called “Screen Time” to combat tech addiction, prompting JANA Partners and CalSTRS to issue a second letter to express their support for the effort.

Reliability

The Danish Consumer Complaints Board reported a fault with Apple’s iBook product line and criticized Apple’s response to the issue, indicating customer support problems at Apple. In that case, a solder joint between two components fractured after a certain number of computer restarts causing the computer to break down, with most incidents occurring outside Apple’s warranty period. Websites such as AppleDefects.com were created in response to the issue and detailed quality control issues with Apple’s product portfolio.

Repairability

Apple has been criticized for the use of proprietary parts thereby thwarting self repair and servicing. The company has often been accused of planned obsolescence. A class action lawsuit alleging planned obsolescence in the iOS 9 update was filed in New York state in December 2015. An online petition created by consumer group SumOfUs in July 2016 accused Apple of “sabotaging” devices with software upgrades designed to slow down older models. Another SumOfUs petition that reached over 300,000 signees in September 2016 also accused Apple of planned obsolescence by removing the standard headphone jack in the iPhone 7.[non-primary source needed]

Upon its release, Apple stated that the iOS 10.2.1 update contained fixes to address unexpected shutdowns reported by some users, particularly on iPhone 6 and 6S models when they had 30% battery life remaining. In December 2017, Apple admitted that these changes included new power management routines that throttle the CPUs on older iPhone models (beginning with the first-generation iPhone SE and iPhone 6 series, and extended to the iPhone 7 series on iOS 11) in order to preserve system stability. Apple explained that the devices’ batteries “become less capable of supplying peak current demands when in cold conditions, have a low battery charge or as they age over time, which can result in the device unexpectedly shutting down to protect its electronic component”, and stated that these measures were part of efforts to “deliver the best experience for customers, which includes overall performance and prolonging the life of their devices”.

Apple subsequently announced that through most of 2018, it would offer battery replacements at a discounted price (US$29, $50 cheaper than the normal cost for an out-of-warranty battery replacement) for existing iPhone models. The iOS 11.3 update would add a “Battery health” area to the system settings menu, allowing users to view the effective capacity of their device’s battery, whether “performance management” had been enabled in order to preserve battery health and stability, and suggests when a battery replacement should be obtained. In January 2019, Apple CEO Tim Cook stated in a shareholder letter that over 11 million battery replacements had been made under the discount program.

The iPhone 12 and 12 Pro gained controversy in 2020 when it was discovered by iFixit and Australian tech YouTuber Hugh Jeffreys that a number of key components such as the cameras malfunction or display warnings if they are replaced with new ones or those taken from an otherwise identical donor unit. Internal Apple documents also mention that, beginning with the iPhone 12 and subsequent models, authorized technicians would have to run the phones through an internal System Configuration tool to reprogram repaired units in order to account for hardware changes. While Apple has yet to comment on the issue, the inability to replace key system components have raised concerns about right to repair and planned obsolescence.

Security

Despite the existence of a small number of known viruses and malware designed for Apple products, a 2006 report by McAfee found a 228 percent increase in the annual rate of vulnerabilities in the period 2003–5, compared to Microsoft’s products, which saw only 73 percent. However, the public’s lack of awareness of the security vulnerabilities of Apple products has led to criticism of Apple for misleading the public which has risen over the years. This criticism has also drawn attention to Apple’s failure to update its products with security updates in a timely fashion. An example of this was a security flaw in Sun Microsystems’s Java, which Sun fixed promptly, while Apple took more than five months to distribute the fix. That is much longer than other companies, and drew sharp criticism from experts and journalists. A recent example is a malware product called MacDefender, MacProtector, MacSecurity, or MacGuard, which is an application that can be installed in OS X by the user; ZDNet’s Microsoft Blogger Ed Bott estimates that it has been installed by 60,000 to 120,000 Mac customers who thought it was legitimate anti-virus software.

Overall, experts admit that Apple products are less likely to be breached by a hacker or infected by a virus/malware, though they emphasize that this is mainly due to the lack of interest by hackers in attacking Apple products. In particular they fear that Apple places its clients in danger by not taking action to inform the public of its security vulnerabilities. As David Harley, security expert from anti-virus vendor ESET said, “Any computer user who believes a system is so safe that they don’t have to care about security is prime material for exploitation by social engineering.”

According to Secunia vulnerability rankings, Apple has led Microsoft in reported security vulnerabilities since 2007, and currently leads all other vendors in reported vulnerabilities for 2010. This ranking, however, doesn’t “indicate the actual security (or lack thereof) in the different vendors’ products; it rather shows that vulnerabilities continue to be discovered in significant numbers in products from even the largest and most popular vendors including those who spend significant resources on improving the security of their products” according to the authors of the study.

In August 2014, it was publicized that hackers had discovered an exploit involving the Find My iPhone service, which allowed them to brute-force a user’s Apple ID and access their iCloud data. The exploit was later believed to have been used as part of an August 2014 leak of a large number of private, mostly nude photos of celebrities that had been synced into their iCloud storage. Apple has since denied that the iCloud service itself or the alleged exploit was responsible for the leak, asserting that the leaks were the result of a “very targeted” brute-force attack of iCloud account information. On August 8, 2018, a search warrant was granted to the FBI to search the property of Grant Michalski who was accused of sending and receiving child pornography. Per the warrant, the FBI was able to unlock the phone using Apple’s FaceID that was linked to Michalski.

Warranty

Main article: AppleCare

Apple has been repeatedly criticized for its unwillingness to honor its warranties and its concomitant penchant for giving any reason for doing so, no matter how bizarre: in 2008, Apple repair centers began to refuse to honor warranties of its products which had been used in an environment it deemed hazardous, i.e., that had been used around someone who smokes; and in 2009, Apple refused to honor its warranty and replace a defective battery on a machine that had a small amount of unrelated cosmetic damage that did not affect the machine’s functionality, nor that of its battery.

China

On March 15, 2013, China Central Television aired a program for the World Consumer Rights Day. The program criticized the issue associated with Apple warranty issues in China. The report said, an iPhone always gets an old back cover when being repaired in China. It also states that the warranty period for changed product is only 90 days and the warranty period for Macintosh and iPad are not according to Chinese laws to get warranty in China. On April 1, 2013, Apple CEO Tim Cook apologized to Chinese consumers for the China warranty policy and changed the policy.

Italy

On December 27, 2011, Apple was fined a total of €900,000 by the Italian Antitrust Authority for failing to properly inform customers of their legal right to two years of warranty service under Italy’s Consumer Code. According to the Italian agency Apple only disclosed its own standard one-year warranty and offered to sell customers AppleCare for one additional year instead of abiding by the law. The agency fined Apple €400,000 for failing to disclose the legally mandated two-year warranty and €500,000 for selling overlapping AppleCare coverage.

Taxes

See also: Double Irish arrangement and Leprechaun economics
Global taxes paid by ASI, 2009–2011
2009 2010 2011 Total
Pre-tax earnings US$4 billion US$12 billion US$22 billion US$38 billion
Global tax US$4 million US$7 million US$10 million US$21 million
Tax rate 0.1% 0.06% 0.05% 0.06%

In the late 1980s Apple was a pioneer of an accounting technique, “Double Irish With a Dutch Sandwich”, which reduces taxes by routing profits through Irish subsidiaries and the Netherlands and then to the Caribbean. In 2004, Ireland, a nation of less than 5 million, was home to more than one-third of Apple’s worldwide revenues, according to company filings. Robert Promm, Apple’s controller in the mid-1990s, called the strategy “the worst-kept secret in Europe”. Such strategies helped Apple keep its international taxes to 3.2 percent of foreign profits last year, to 2.2 percent in 2010, and in the single digits for the last half-decade, according to the company’s corporate filings.

According to a Senate report on the company’s offshore tax structure concluded in May 2013, Apple has held billions of dollars in profits in Irish subsidiaries to pay little or no taxes to any government by using an unusual global tax structure. The main subsidiary, a holding company that includes Apple’s retail stores throughout Europe, has not paid any corporate income tax in the last five years. “Apple has exploited a difference between Irish and U.S. tax residency rules”, the report said.

Among the findings in the reports are:

  1. Almost all of Apple’s foreign operations are run through an Irish company with no employees.
  2. Apple pays 2%—or less—in corporate income tax in Ireland. (Ireland’s standard rate of corporation tax is 12.5℅).
  3. Apple Operations International, which provided 30% of Apple’s worldwide net profits from 2009 to 2011, doesn’t pay taxes anywhere.
  4. Apple’s US profits keep ending up in Ireland, too.
  5. Most of the $102 billion Apple is keeping “overseas” is in US banks.
  6. The magic of “check-the-box” makes whole companies disappear.[clarification needed]
  7. Apple is seemingly terrible at estimating its own taxes.

On May 21, 2013, Apple CEO Tim Cook defended his company’s tax tactics at a Senate hearing.

As part of the Luxembourg Leaks, Apple has been revealed to use the Luxembourg tax haven for tax avoidance.

The EU Commission’s diagram of Apple’s “Double Irish” BEPS tool

On August 30, 2016, after two-year EU illegal State aid case against Apple in Ireland, the EU’s competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, concluded that Apple had received “illegal state aid” from Ireland during 2004–2014 via its use of a hybrid Double Irish tax scheme on which it received private rulings by the Irish Revenue Commissioners. The commission ordered Apple to pay 13 billion euros ($14.5 billion), plus interest, in unpaid taxes, the largest corporate tax fine in history. The Irish government “unanimously” agreed to appeal the ruling, claiming there was no departure from the applicable Irish taxation law and that the Commission’s action was an intrusion into Irish sovereignty (since national taxation policy is excluded from Union treaties). Apple has also announced that they will appeal the Commission’s findings.

On 5 November 2017, the Paradise Papers, a set of confidential electronic documents relating to offshore investment, revealed that Apple is among the corporations that “avoided billions of dollars in tax” using offshore companies. In 2014, Appleby, an offshore legal service provider referred to in the papers, worked with Apple in a function similar to a general contractor to provide offshore offices on the island of Jersey in co-operation with the law firm Baker McKenzie.

As part of Apple’s discussion with the EU Commission regarding its illegal State Aid case, Apple agreed to close its Double Irish tax scheme, however, on 22 July 2016, the Central Statistics Office (Ireland) (CSO) announced that it was re-stating Irish GDP upwards by 26.3% (later increased to 34.4%). The CSO would not release the source of the revision and restricted releases of regular data to hide the identity of the source. Nobel-prize winning economist Paul Krugman called the affair Leprechaun economics. It was not until Q1 2018, that economists had enough data to show that the source of the Leprechaun Economics rise in Ireland’s GDP was Apple restructuring out of their Double Irish tax scheme, and into a new Irish tax scheme, the CAIA arrangement. Apple had on-shored almost US$300 billion of intellectual property to Ireland, the largest base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS) transaction in history, and on which the CAIA tool would enable it to avoid all future taxes on its non–U.S. revenues.

On Saturday, December 2, 2017, activists shouting “pay your taxes” carried out public protests at Apple stores in Paris and elsewhere in France. On January 17, 2018, Apple announced that it will take advantage of the new U.S. tax laws and repatriate its offshore profits, and pay $38 billion in deferred taxes.

See also

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Criticism of Apple Inc..
  • Reality distortion field
  • Ireland as a tax haven

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