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Class Accuses Apple of Installing ‘Crippleware’

LOS ANGELES (CN) - A class action accuses Apple of stifling competition by demanding hefty royalties for its USB connectors and including "crippleware" that prevents unlicensed versions from working on its devices.

Lead plaintiff Catherine Silas sued Apple for its Lightning USB connectors on Nov. 26 in Superior Court, alleging violations of consumer laws, unfair competition and breach of express warranty.

She claims that the Lightning USB connectors are "often poorly manufactured and become frayed, break, or otherwise cease to work," but affordable replacements are hard to come by.

Apple makes each cable for $3.50, and sells 1-meter Lightning connectors for $19.99, according to the lawsuit.

Despite that high profit margin (571%), Apple charges a royalty of $4 for third-party Lightning connectors made by the likes of Belkin and Mophie, Silas says.

Apple includes encryption software in its products and authentication components inside the connectors themselves to prevent unlicensed connectors who don't pay royalties from working on the iPhone, iPad, iPod and other Apple devices.

When users use unlicensed connectors, devices display the following message: "'(!) This cable or accessory is not certified and may not work reliably with this iPhone.'"

"As a result, consumers are unable to use the Lightning accessory and forced to purchase an Apple-branded or Apple-licensed Lightning accessory at a supracompetitive price," the lawsuit states.

Apple never informed consumers that the connectors would not work because of previously installed "crippleware," the complaint states.

Silas seeks class certification, damages and costs.

She is represented by Christopher P. Ridout with Ridout Lyon + Ottoson, of Long Beach.

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