Apple faces consumer lawsuit over iPhone battery and software updates controversy

by Meagan Martin Powers

Five Apple customers have filed a lawsuit over allegations that the tech giant released software updates that slowed down older iPhone models. The lawsuit accuses Apple of “deceptive, immoral and unethical” practices in violation of consumer protection laws.

Issues with slow speeds on older iPhone models were first reported in November 2016. Some users of older iPhone reported that their phones would shut down when the battery levels reached 30-40%. Although Apple released a software update that resolved the issue, some users reported that their phones were operating at slower speeds. Some iPhone users even speculated that the phones were being deliberately slowed down in order to incentivize users to purchase newer phones.

In December 2017, Apple released a statement which confirmed that the company did issue software updates to slow older phones in order to prevent the batteries on these devices “from unexpectedly shutting down.” Technology reporters have criticized Apple CEO Tim Cook for his handling of the controversy, stating that Apple should have been more forthcoming about the performance and battery issues on older iPhone models.

In response to Apple’s admission, five iPhone customers – two from Illinois, and one each from North Carolina, Ohio, and Indiana – filed a lawsuit against the company in Chicago federal court. The lawsuit alleged that software updates issued by Apple for the iPhone 5, iPhone 6, and iPhone 7 “were engineered to purposefully slow down or ‘throttle down’ the performance speeds” of these smartphone models.

Apple is also facing multiple government investigations over the iPhone battery issue. Sen. John Thune, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, has sent a letter to CEO Tim Cook asking Apple to address several questions regarding the iPhone software updates. Apple is also being investigated by the French consumer watchdog DGCCRF over its handling of the iPhone battery issue.

After issuing a statement last month in response to the controversy, Apple has also announced that it will allow users of older iPhone models to replace the batteries on these devices for $29 per battery. The replacement is only being offered one time per customer, and will be available until December 31, 2018.

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by Meagan Martin Powers

Meagan Martin Powers is a licensed attorney and partner at HO&P who focuses her practice on commercial litigation, bankruptcy and creditor’s rights matters, and small business legal advisory.