Class-action lawsuits have been filed in at least three states — California, Illinois, and New York. Whether or not Apple violated any consumer rights is for the courts to decide. What is known at this point is that some people are disgruntled, though it’s for all sorts of different reasons.
Some users believe Apple should have asked them for consent before sending out the phone-slowing software. Others contend the Apple attempted to deceive iPhone owners by “throttling down” their phone’s performance — perhaps to encourage them to buy a new phone.
Read on for more about what’s happening, and why.
What did Apple do to elicit these lawsuits?
In response to a widely disseminated Geekbench blogpost, Apple admitted to slowing down the processing speed of “older” model iPhones — SE, 6, 6S, and 7 — to preserve their batteries and prevent unexpected shutdowns. Like all cell phones, iPhones are powered by lithium-ion batteries which gradually lose charging capability and performance as they age. Apple says “Your battery is designed to retain up to 80% of its original capacity at 500 complete charge cycles.”
In a statement sent to nearly every tech publication on the planet, Apple said that in cold conditions or when the older phone is drawing a lot of power, the handset could “unexpectedly” shut down. In short, Apple contends this is an engineering decision designed to “smooth out the instantaneous peaks,” or draws in power, to keep your phone operating.
What specific things are people suing for?
In California: Two individuals from Los Angeles say Apple “never requested consent” to slow down their phones or “choose whether they preferred to have their iPhones slower than normal.” The unexpected slowing of their phone, they say, “caused them to suffer, and continue to suffer, economic damages and other harm for which they are entitled to compensation…” This compensation includes replacement of the phone and compensation for the value they lost.
The Los Angeles Times reports two other lawsuits, including one accusing Apple of “fraud through concealment and unfair business practices.”
In an interesting argument reported by Reuters, a lawsuit filed in San Francisco contends that the iPhone batteries’ inability to keep up with demand proved the batteries were defective. The complaint read: “Rather than curing the battery defect by providing a free battery replacement for all affected iPhones, Apple sought to mask the battery defect.”
In Illinois: According to the Chicago-Sun Times, five people say Apple’s software updates “were engineered to purposefully slow down or ‘throttle down’ the performance speeds.” This could imply some intentionally nefarious behavior on the part of Apple: Some folks might confuse an ailing, slower phone with the age of the device, not simply an old battery, and purchase a new phone. There is, however, no evidence this was Apple’s motivation.
How can I join a class action lawsuit?
Most, if not all, of these lawsuits appear to be class action, filed on behalf of millions of iPhone users. Owners of older model iPhones don’t need to leap up and try and join — not that they could. Instead, if a court determines Apple acted in nefarious ways or broke the law, those eligible for damages — that means people with the affected phones — would be contacted and told they are eligible to be compensated for their damages, for example, a battery replacement.