Apple iPhone Class Action Filed in the Northern District of California

iPhone Class Action Seeks Injunctive Relief & Damages Due to Apple’s Alleged Failure to Inform Consumers that iPhone 6, iPhone 6S, iPhone SE and iPhone 7 Updates to iOS 10.2.1 and/or iOS 11.2 Would Significantly and Artificially Reduce iPhone Performance.
iPhone Class Action Alleges Apple Failed to Inform Consumers that iPhone Performance Would be Restored by As Much As 70% With a Simple iPhone Lithium-Ion Battery Replacement Costing Less than $100 at an Apple Store. 
iPhone Class Action

Image: Pixabay, Andile Moyo (DTech), CC0 1.0 Universal

iPhone Class Action Alleges Apple Purposefully Failed to Disclose That iPhone Update Eroded iPhone Performance

According to an iPhone class action lawsuit filed on December 22, 2017 in United States District Court, Northern District of California, by Plaintiff Nicole Gallmann against Apple Inc.:

In the modern digital age, batteries “wear” over time. The lithium-ion battery used by Apple slowly diminishes its ability to hold a charge with time and use. However, normal lithium-ion battery wear does not reduce performance; a weakening battery has no effect on performance unless there is software that links the two. And that is precisely what Apple did.

In rolling out iOS 10.2.1, Apple claimed to “bug fixes and improve[ ] the security of [the] iPhone or iPad” and “improve[ ] power management during peak workloads to avoid unexpected shutdowns on the iPhone.”[] What Apple purposefully failed to disclose, however, was that the update would act as a latent time-bomb that slowly eroded the phone’s performance to the frustration of the user – the software update throttled the handset’s performance.

The effect of Apple’s actions was to a) purposefully reduce device performance with time, and b) deprive consumers of material information concerning the cause of the decline in performance of [iPhone 6, iPhone 6S, iPhone SE or iPhone 7 devices]. 

iPhone Class Action Allegations

According to the iPhone class action complaint filed by Plaintiff Gallman:

On January 23, 2017, Apple released iOS 10.2.1. The update specifically addressed aging batteries, and expressly represented that the purpose was to prolong the useful life of the Device.  Apple promised to “deliver the best experience for customers, which includes overall performance and prolonging the life of their devices.”[]

For example, the update specifically sought to prevent the handset from shutting down if a performance spike drew too much power—i.e., turning off unexpectedly as if the [iPhone] was dead while the phone’s battery still had a charge. While the battery issue was a reported problem at the time,[] the iOS update did far more than address shutdowns on those few phones that experienced shutdowns – it also surreptitiously and purposefully throttled the performance speed on the iPhone 6, 6S, and SE’s by as much as 70 percent. [Emphasis added]

Furthermore, the update did not even fully address the purported battery “shutdown” issue on all devices: 20 percent of iPhone 6s and 30 percent of iPhone 6 devices that previously experienced unexpected shut down issues continued to experience those issues, according to a statement released by Apple.[] At the time the iPhone 7 was not impacted. However, it is now known that the feature at the center of the iOS 10.2.1 update was later extended to iPhone 7 with the release of iOS 11.2, and will be added to other products in the future. [Emphasis added]

Apple also informed consumers that for those who need it, a message will appear on the screen inside Settings if that phone’s “battery needs service.” Apple did this to “add a bit more transparency to people wondering when Apple considers the battery worn down enough to get swapped out.” Apple even offered consumers tips regarding when to swap out a battery.[]

However, despite all of these disclosure opportunities, Apple never informed consumers that the 10.2.1 update reduced unexpected phone shutdowns by slowing the device’s performance dramatically. [Emphasis added]

Moreover, consumers experiencing these issues were never notified by Apple (as it represented it would) that “the [device’s] battery needs service.” [Emphasis added]

Because Apple failed to informed consumers that the performance issues were artificially caused by the iOS update in conjunction with an older (but still perfectly functional) battery, consumers were denied the opportunity to make an informed decision regarding whether to upgrade their device or instead simply replace the battery. [Emphasis added]

Apple’s failure to disclose the impact of the iOS update 10.2.1 (and the later iOS 11.1) and remedy the issues it produced (and purported to resolve) constitutes an unfair trade practice and breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing implied in Apple’s contracts with Plaintiff and the class. Plaintiff and the class were harmed as a direct and proximate result of Apple’s actions.

One source referenced in the class action complaint was a Motherboard story by Jason Koebler, “Apple Throttles iPhones that Have Old Batteries (But Didn’t Tell You About It).” The article stated that

[w]hat makes it worse is that Apple does not make it easy to replace the battery yourself, discourages third party repair, and doesn’t have the first party repair infrastructure to handle large numbers of in-store battery swaps, especially in states that don’t have lots of Apple Stores.

. . .

The scandal here is not that Apple throttles your phone. It’s that it doesn’t tell you it throttles, and makes it hard for you to fix the problem (or for you to know about your repair options).  The scandal is in the design of the iPhone itself, which requires proprietary tools to open and various components to be removed in order to replace the only part of the phone that is guaranteed to go bad. The scandal is that Apple actively discourages you from trying to fix your own phone, lobbies against legislation that would make it easy for you to restore your phone to peak condition. If you’re mad about this, you’re not crazy—you have every right to be.

iPhone Class Action – The iPhone Class

The class action was brought on behalf of the named Plaintiff and a proposed class of all consumers who reside in the United States and owned either iPhone 6, iPhone 6S, iPhone SE or iPhone 7 models purchased in the United States and upgraded to iOS 10.2.1, or a later version, prior to the date of the iPhone class action complaint (filed December 22, 2017).

iPhone Owners

If you own an iPhone 6, iPhone 6S, iPhone SE or iPhone 7 which was upgraded to iOS 10.2.1, or a later version, and have questions about your potential legal rights, please fill out the form on the right or send an e-mail to [email protected].

Kehoe Law Firm, P.C.