Apple has begun charging customers for online chat support on products that are out-of-warranty. The company will charge US$19.99 per incident for such support, though customers can request an exemption.
According to 9to5Mac, Apple had originally planned to roll out the fee system earlier in March, but delayed it after encountering trouble with its chat-and-Web payment mechanism. There may still be some hiccups with that mechanism, but as of now, customers should expect to pay for support on devices without AppleCare support that are outside their initial warranty period.
This effects online chat only, which until now has represented a loophole for getting free support on devices that were out of warranty. Charging for out-of-warranty support has been in place with Apple's telephone AppleCare support for years. In addition, customers can still speak to a Genius for free at Apple's retail stores, where out-of-warranty repairs have always come with a price.
Customers that are charged will be given a link to a payment webpage directly in chat by AppleCare staff. When the customer pays, Apple's support system flags the customer as eligible for support, and you're off to the races.
Exemptions can be granted for iCloud issues and accidental damage cases where a customer simply wants to set up repair or replacement arrangements through Apple's online chat. It's also important to remember that it never hurts to ask if you can get an exemption on paying.