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Schneiderman requests information, seeks cooperation from cell phone industry to crack down on 'Apple Picking'

by jmaloni

Press release

Mon, May 13th 2013 05:25 pm

Letters sent to four largest companies seek information on expanding black market for stolen products and efforts to ensure customer safety

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today sent letters to the CEOs of Apple, Google/Motorola, Microsoft, and Samsung seeking information about their efforts to protect customers from the rise in violent street crimes known as "Apple Picking." Recent reports have demonstrated a spike in the theft of mobile phones and other electronic devices. The thieves wipe the devices' memories clean and resell them for hundreds of dollars on the secondary market. Too often, those crimes turn violent, and even deadly.

In his letter, Schneiderman noted his responsibility to enforce New York's Executive Law §63(12) and General Business Law §349, which address deceptive trade practices. He asked these four companies - which together account for at least 90 percent of U.S. smart phones sales - to provide information related to efforts and representations they make to consumers regarding safety. Schneiderman also asked the companies to collaborate with his office to help identify solutions that could minimize the economic incentives for theft. Schneiderman has enlisted Lookout Inc., an industry expert in mobile security, to advise his office on a pro bono basis on these issues.

"Cracking down on violent and dangerous cell phone thefts is important for New Yorkers," Schneiderman said. "The companies that dominate this industry have a responsibility to their customers to fulfill their promises to ensure safety and security. This is a multibillion-dollar industry that produces some of the most popular and technologically advanced consumer electronic products in the world. Surely we can work together to find solutions that lead to a reduction in violent street crime targeting consumers."

In New York City, theft of Apple products has driven much of the increase in the theft of electronics. Between Jan. 1 and Sept. 23, 2012, a total of 11,447 cases of stolen "iDevices" (iPhones and other iOS devices) were reported to the New York City Police Department, a rise of 3,280 over 2011. The problem, however, is not limited to Apple. A 2011 NYPD analysis found that companies other than Apple manufactured roughly 30% of all electronic devices stolen on subways and buses.

In too many cases, these incidents turn violent. Consider some recent examples:

  • On April 19, 2012, a 26-year-old chef at the Museum of Modern Art was killed for his iPhone on his way home to the Bronx.
  • In April 2012, 20-year-old Alex Herald was stabbed during an iPhone theft.
  • In September 2012, in three separate incidents, women were violently attacked for Apple and Samsung devices.
  • In February 2013, three people were stabbed on a subway platform in Queens in a fight over an iPhone.

Earlier this month, a woman was mugged at gunpoint in Crown Heights for her Android device.

In his letter, Schneiderman asked the companies to designate representatives to work with his office to collaborate in developing a comprehensive approach to discourage theft and protect consumers.

The letter also seeks information about whether companies have seen any financial benefit as a result of customers purchasing replacements for stolen devices. A recent study found that lost and stolen cell phones cost consumers more than $30 billion last year.

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