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Lawsuit claims Apple's iOS updates in 2016 forced customers to buy new iPhone chargers

A new attempted class action lawsuit claims Apple is forcing owners of iOS devices to repeatedly buy new chargers by updating the iPhones with new requirements, after a user found her old charger suddenly stopped functioning properly with her iPhone.

Filed in the United States District Court for the Central District of California on Monday, the lawsuit identifies Monica Emerson as the main plaintiff, with the suit filed "on behalf of all other members of the public similarly situated."

According to the lawsuit, thousands of iPhone owners in the United States and other countries started to experience issues with their older iPhones around November 2016, with claims the devices stopped recognizing and accepting their chargers. The filing notes the chargers were also produced by Apple, not a third-party company, and that they were functioning normally before September 13, 2016.

In the plaintiff's specific case, they noted an update in October 2017 for iOS, and that later on the iPhone displayed the message "this accessory may not be supported" when attempting to charge. According to the suit, this phrase meant "requiring that people buy a new charger."

It is alleged Apple "forced updates to the iPhones which were specifically designed and programmed to reject" old iPhone chargers. Apple is said to have done this "in an effort to dominate the cellular telephone marketplace," with a goal of pushing customers to buy either new iPhones or new chargers.

Apple reportedly did not inform the plaintiff of the plan to "program a rejection of old iPhone chargers," nor advised at the time of buying their iPhones that there would be a point where chargers could be rejected due to an update. The user also reportedly did not consent to the update being installed and preventing the charger from working again.

Demanding a jury trial, the suit wants class action status, for Apple to notify class members of its "unlawful and deceptive conduct," engage in corrective advertising, actual and punitive damages, any and all statutory enhanced damages, attorneys' fees, interest, and any other available relief.

At a glance, it seems like the case of Apple issuing an update that effectively blocks older devices from working would be a lot more prominent and well-known, affecting millions rather than the "thousands" mentioned in the suit. If Apple did perform such activity, there would have been an earlier lawsuit and mountains of evidence from many users affected in the same way, but searches for such events proved unfruitful.

Apple's own support advises if you see the "Accessory may not be supported" alert, it could be due to a number of different reasons, including if the accessory is defective or damaged, isn't Apple certified, isn't supported by the device, or the iOS device's connector is damaged or dirty. It is also entirely possible that users need to update to a newer version of iOS for certain types of accessories.

While claiming Apple is purposefully blocking access to older charges doesn't have merit at face value, there are some software issues that have caused similar things, but certainly without the intention described in the suit.

In September 2018, multiple reports from users noted issues charging their iPhones after updating to iOS 12, with a bug intermittently failing to engage charging after an iPhone or iPad was connected up to a wall charger or a Qi charging pad. Apple acknowledged the issue, and fixed the problem in its iOS 12.1 update.