Apple faces lawsuits after saying it slows down aging iPhones

FILE PHOTO: A man talks on his iPhone at a mobile phone store in New Delhi
FILE PHOTO: A man talks on his iPhone at a mobile phone store in New Delhi, India, July 27, 2016. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi/File photo

December 28, 2017

By Paresh Dave

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Apple Inc <AAPL.O> defrauded iPhone users by slowing devices without warning to compensate for poor battery performance, according to eight lawsuits filed in various federal courts in the week since the company opened up about the year-old software change.

The tweak may have led iPhone owners to misguided attempts to resolve issues over the last year, the lawsuits contend.

All the lawsuits – filed in U.S. District Courts in California, New York and Illinois – seek class-action to represent potentially millions of iPhone owners nationwide.

A similar case was lodged in an Israeli court on Monday, the newspaper Haaretz reported.

Apple did not respond to an email seeking comment on the filings.

The company acknowledged last week for the first time in detail that operating system updates released since “last year” for the iPhone 6, iPhone 6s, iPhone SE and iPhone 7 included a feature “to smooth out” power supply from batteries that are cold, old or low on charge.

Phones without the adjustment would shut down abruptly because of a precaution designed to prevent components from getting fried, Apple said.

The disclosure followed a Dec. 18 analysis by Primate Labs, which develops an iPhone performance measuring app, that identified blips in processing speed and concluded that a software change had to be behind them.

One of the lawsuits, filed Thursday in San Francisco, said that “the batteries’ inability to handle the demand created by processor speeds” without the software patch was a defect.

“Rather than curing the battery defect by providing a free battery replacement for all affected iPhones, Apple sought to mask the battery defect,” according to the complaint.

The plaintiff in that case is represented by attorney Jeffrey Fazio, who represented plaintiffs in a $53-million settlement with Apple in 2013 over its handling of iPhone warranty claims.

The problem now seen is that users over the last year could have blamed an aging computer processor for app crashes and sluggish performance – and chose to buy a new phone – when the true cause may have been a weak battery that could have been replaced for a fraction of the cost, some of the lawsuits state.

“If it turns out that consumers would have replaced their battery instead of buying new iPhones had they known the true nature of Apple’s upgrades, you might start to have a better case for some sort of misrepresentation or fraud,” said Rory Van Loo, a Boston University professor specializing in consumer technology law.

But Chris Hoofnagle, faculty director for the Berkeley Center for Law & Technology, said in an email that Apple may not have done wrong.

“We still haven’t come to consumer protection norms” around aging products, Hoofnagle said. Pointing to a device with a security flaw as an example, he said, “the ethical approach could include degrading or even disabling functionality.”

The lawsuits seek unspecified damages in addition to, in some cases, reimbursement. A couple of the complaints seek court orders barring Apple from throttling iPhone computer speeds or requiring notification in future instances.

(Reporting by Paresh Dave; Editing by Leslie Adler)

  • Tado

    Old people need to “slow down” or suffer the risk of cardiac arrest.
    Apple did the right thing.
    My iPhone will achieve extended longevity.
    Slow down usage: speak softly & slowly.

  • 2EdgedSword

    Soon as mine slows I will be a never-Apple man

  • james pence

    I got rid of my iphone 6s a few months ago. It never was a very good phone and way over priced. Thin body and cracking screen covers were the norm. Apple owes a refund to everyone that used this product. The best punishment is not to buy apple’s over hyped and over priced product.

  • Sui-Juris

    Hahaaha, Apple put in a software component to prolong your aging battery… So sue them.

    Or install a new battery, a two minute job and problem solved. Bunch of technot Apple weenies. SMH

    • MarketableCapitalist

      Yes, but can you spell “douchebag”? I bet you can. Surely you can. Obviously you can.

      • Sui-Juris

        So… You saved me from naming you. 🙄

    • TexasDeplorable1134

      Yea, it’s like you can pull off the back cover and replace the battery in a snap. But wait, you first have to get around the 2-3.5mm Pentalobe screws (not usually in everyones toolbox). Then the 3m contact tape that holds the battery in place (hint: pull tape release tabs). All the while ensuring you do not damage the ribbon cable to the display, which is somewhat fragile.

      It’s not like an android phone where it can be done in under ten seconds by just popping off the back cover and replace the battery with ZERO tools.

      • Sui-Juris

        So take it to the Apple store and have them do it for you. Either way, Apple put in a software component that would increase the usage period of a waining battery so you wouldn’t have to think beyond your typical instant gratification. And now that you find you have to actually do something…. sue, sue, sooooie! LMAO

        • TexasDeplorable1134

          I have a much better solution. NEVER BUY APPLE.

          • Sui-Juris

            The solution… is for those who have. 🤓

  • TwitterFace

    “the ethical approach could include degrading or even disabling functionality.”

    Agree, but the same ethics would insist on making me whole by partially refunding the exorbitant purchase price I coughed up originally.

  • Joker

    Is anyone surprised at this point that these corporations are bloodsucking parasites, defrauding the consumer at every opportunity…

    • TexasDeplorable1134

      No, it it the whole “planned obsolescence”, just like they did with the K-Cars of the 80’s. Everything about those cars failed one by one until the car was no longer deemed repairable.

  • GBWO

    Ditched the Iphone and bought a Samsung for a lot less money and it is a better phone.

  • littlepeaks

    It looks like Apple’s major sin was not disclosing what it was doing/intended to do.

  • Jonathan

    Never trusted Apple. Google is on that ‘do not trust’ list as well as Facebook. 12-31-17 is national delete your Facebook account (if you haven’t already)

    • phoenix phyre

      You can not delete a Facebook account you can only suspend it.

      • TexasDeplorable1134

        Yes, you can. It’s just hidden very well so as to make it difficult to find and takes up to 90 days to completely remove your account. This does not take into account of your history while you were using it. Any others who had received something from you will still have it.