Gift Alert: Apple Imposter Problem

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gift-alert-apple-imposter-problemA new smartphone is a big investment. With millions being gifted this holiday season, a lawsuit wending its way through the courts points out it’s risky to believe everything you read about accessories like extra charging cords…especially if your phone is made by Apple.

The technology giant has always sold expensive accessories for its products so naturally, a secondary market was inevitable. The question is whether these products advertised as Apple items will prove compatible.

In October, the Cupertino, CA firm filed suit against a company named Mobile Star claiming the majority of products it sold online as authentic Apple merchandise were fakes. The items were for sale on Amazon.com.

“Consumers, relying on Amazon.com’s reputation, have no reason to suspect the power products they purchased from Amazon.com are anything but genuine. This is particularly true where, as here, the products are sold directly ‘by Amazon.com’ as genuine Apple products using Apple’s product marketing images,” Apple’s attorneys wrote.

In the suit published online by patentlyapple.com, Apple explained how it purchased more than 100 iPhone devices and other charging products. Almost 90% percent of the items were counterfeit.

The judge was told, “These counterfeits have the potential to overheat, catch fire, and deliver a deadly electric shock to consumers while in normal use… (Underwriters Laboratory) tested twelve counterfeit Apple power adapters that “were so poorly designed and constructed that they posed a risk of lethal electrocution to the user.”

The risk of faulty chargers is quite real. In 2014, an Australian woman was found electrocuted in her home holding a laptop plugged into a 3rd party charger. The year prior, a Chinese woman’s death was tied to a similar issue.

Search ‘Apple lightning cable’ at Amazon.com and a variety of options pop up including some labeled as Apple items and others as MFi (Made for iPhone/iPod/iPad) or ‘Apple Certified.” Scroll through the reviews on Amazon.com for these, and you’ll find some one-star reviews with photos of melted cords and other damage.

Litigation will eventually settle the issue of what’s truly authorized and what’s a fake. The current question Apple fans should be asking is what happens if a counterfeit cord melts their pricey device.

The answer is fuzzy. Many of the counterfeit items labeled as Apple may claim to offer Apple’s warranty but obviously, they cannot. The AmazonBasics warranty for MFi gear doesn’t cover consequential damages like fried iPhones; it promises only to replace the cord or refund your money. However, some states don’t allow the exclusion of consequential costs so the answer will be different for consumers depending on their state of residence.

If you’re wondering whether the product you purchased carries a risk of damages, the folks at the nearest Apple Store can easily spot the fakes. They’ve seen it all—including a pair of fake charge plugs that were identical right down to the serial number!

Consider this warning one more reason to back up your digital footprint on a regular basis.

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