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Apple sues recycling company, alleges theft of 100,000 devices

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Apple is taking legal action against Geep Canada, which it contracted to recycle its used devices. Apple alleges that Geep stole and resold more than 100,000 of these devices.

Quantum Lifecycle Partners subsidiary Geep received more than 500,000 Apple devices (iPhones, iPads and Apple Watches) between January 2015 and December 2017 and was paid by Apple to dismantle and recycle them.

According to Apple, an investigation found that 18 per cent of these devices (at least 103,845) were still active, indicating that they were never destined for recycling.

In an Apple audit of Geep’s warehouse, the company found that the devices were being stored in an area which was not covered by security cameras. Apple then checked these devices, compared the serial numbers with its own records and found that may of them were still connecting to Apple servers via mobile networks. It is possible that other devices had also been stolen.

“At least 11,766 pounds of Apple devices left Geep’s premises without being destroyed – a fact that Geep itself confirmed,” said the document, which was filed in January 2020 and reported by The Logic. Apple is seeking at least CAD$31m (£18m) from Geep, in addition to all profits made by reselling the devices. It has not worked with Geep since the alleged theft was uncovered.

Geep has not denied that the Apple devices were stolen under their care, but has claimed that rogue employees were to blame rather than this being company policy. Geep has filed its own lawsuit against three former employees; Apple argues that these employees were formerly senior management.

An Apple spokesperson told tech website The Verge: “Products sent for recycling are no longer adequate to sell to consumers and if they are rebuilt with counterfeit parts they could cause serious safety issues, including electrical or battery defects.”

Apple has been engaged in an effort to reduce the amount of e-waste for which it is responsible, including with the arrival of two specialised in-house disassembly robots named Dave and Daisy. However, it still relies heavily on third-party companies to dismantle and recycle materials from used devices. Volumes of e-waste are growing at an alarming rate, but only a small fraction of it is collected and recycled.

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