The latest scandal at Apple

On “immoral and unethical” corporate behaviors

Just before Christmas of 2017, we heard that Apple is in some hot water in the form of two class action lawsuits for admitting to intentionally slowing down old phones.

Business Insider is reporting on this story and of the latest suit, involving five customers from Illinois, Ohio, North Carolina, and Indiana, quotes The Chicago Sun-Times:

“They describe Apple’s practice as ‘deceptive, immoral, and unethical’ and say the company engineered iOS updates to “purposefully slow down or ‘throttle down’ the performance speeds” of the iPhone 5, iPhone 6, and iPhone 7, the report says.”

Can we talk about the words “immoral” and “unethical” a moment?

This is language employed by lawyers in the legal court document. Yeah, it sucks that Apple would slow down old phones. Full disclosure: I have an old 5S that I’ve had for years that is a little slow but hey, it’s older and I’m patient. I don’t like to buy new phones or much of anything produced that is “new” as rampant and linear resourcing, production, and disposal is pretty much destroying the earth. But, I can just hear it: but ZOMG Melissa the new X is HUGE and HAVE YOU SEEN IT? How many news articles came across my feed that were about the latest iPhones as Christmas gifts? I find myself wondering when CNBC became the marketing arm for Apple.

But labeling the slowing down of the old phone in your pocket as “immoral” is egregious and irresponsible when you remember that 1.) environmentalists are routinely assassinated around the world by the very corporations they are standing up against and this is covered up or turned away from by both both a complicit media and international governments and that 2.) Apple itself is accepted to have deplorable working conditions in the manufacturing factories in China so egregious that mass suicides were happening and rather than address the conditions, Apple made the business decision to install suicide nets around the buildings. 3.) The cobalt harvest for lithium batteries like the ones used in laptops and smartphones means that miners (including children) dig by hand, exposing them to dangerous working conditions, toxic metals and minerals, and for pennies in wages (not to mention the environmental impact of smart phones). The list of humanitarian and environmental atrocities by corporations goes on and on and on and on and on. I can keep googling if you need me to.

If we are merely talking ethics as relevant to the consumerist standpoint, why is no one outraged about the new ports that now requires all of your audio equipment (headphones, AUX cables, etc) to need use an expensive adapter?

Relevant: you’ll want to look up what is currently happening to consumer protections on the Hill.

Is it worth thinking about that Apple freely admitted this information while other companies ostensibly doing the same or similar thing are not being sued only because they have not admitted it? The phrase you are looking for, dear one, is planned obsolescence, happening in many industries and heretofore essentially ignored by lawyers.

Apple, darlings, is unethical and immoral, but not merely because they played one of capitalism’s favorite games: making an older product undesirable so that you will buy a new one. (A game they were certainly part of creating, as Steve Jobs loved to see people standing in line in front of his stores, and even orchestrated those lines years ago by not allowing pre-orders of forthcoming devices. It was a clever marketing ploy, kids.)

We have to begin to do things differently, you know. Here’s a guide to more ethical phone companies. It’s completely and utterly and woefully insufficient in all the we as a nation of consumers are complicit in. But it’s a start.

Writer, editor, mom, activist, poet. Wears a mask.

Writer, editor, mom, activist, poet. Wears a mask.