Apple Faces 30 Class Action Lawsuits + Investigations In US & France Over iPhone Throttling

Apple now has to answer serious questions about whether they throttled older iPhone models.

Does Apple deliberately slow down older iPhones in an attempt to force users to upgrade?  That’s the question federal courts may soon decide.

Last month, iPhone users in California and in the Midwest filed multiple lawsuits against the consumer tech giant.  The class-action lawsuits accuse Apple of purposefully engaging in “deceptive, immoral, and unethical practices.

The Cupertino-based company allegedly designed its flagship smartphone to slow down after a specific period, forcing customers to upgrade.

Six days later, the total number of class-action lawsuits jumped to 8.  In addition, two iPhone owners sued the company in Israel.  They argued that the company had “breached its duty toward consumers by concealing information.

In an attempt to defuse the growing controversy, Apple slashed the price of replacement batteries.  The out-of-warranty battery replacement fee is now $29, down from $79.  The move has yet to convince consumers, however.

When 8 class-action lawsuits just aren’t enough.

According to Patently Apple, the Cupertino-based company now faces 30 class-action lawsuits.  12 lawsuits were filed in Northern California alone in the past three weeks.

The cases cite the following five separate causes of action.

Breach of Implied Contract

Trespass to Chattel

Breach of Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing

Violation of California’s Unfair Competition Law

Violation of California’s Consumers Legal Remedies Act

Each class-action lawsuit cites Apple’s “deliberate interference with property without consent.”  9to5Mac writes that the company may “point out that every iOS update is installed with user consent.”  As users must tap the Agree button to use the iPhone, the company may not be found liable.

Did Apple deliberately deceive consumers?

The consumer tech giant doesn’t only face scrutiny in a court of law.  Apple now faces investigations in both France and the US.

In the US, Senator John Thune (R-SD), chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, sent a letter to Tim Cook.  According to the Wall Street Journal, he asked the company “for answers on a series of questions” related to the company’s decision to throttle processing performance on older phones.  Thune also noted that many consumers have blasted the company for charging for battery replacements.

The BBC writes that in France, companies cannot “intentionally shorten the lifespan of a product.”  Paris’ prosecutor’s office has launched a formal investigation into the Cupertino-based company’s practices.  Prosecutors believe that the company may have engaged in “deception and programmed obsolescence.”  Penalties could include a jail term or up to 5% of the company’s annual turnover.

Exploding iPhones

Apple doesn’t only face a judicial and political nightmare.  It now has to deal with exploding iPhones.

On Tuesday, authorities evacuated an Apple Store in Zurich, Switzerland.  An iPhone battery had reportedly overheated and exploded.

According to local police, a repair worker had burned his hand while removing the iPhone’s battery. 50 employees and consumers were forced to leave the store.  Zurich City Police reported that the smartphone “suddenly exploded for an unknown reason.”

In a statement, the Zurich City Police said,

The staff responded well and correctly.  They sprinkled quartz sand over the overheated battery so that the smoke could be contained and sucked out after switching on the ventilation.

Police added that seven others had also been injured but weren’t hospitalized.

Earlier this week, an iPhone 7 exploded and reportedly burned a teenager’s stomach.  Orlando-area teen Tina Pierre filed a complaint against Apple after showing an iPhone-related scar.  Speaking on her conversation with the company’s customer support team, she told News 6,

They just kept asking me, ‘Well, how’s the phone doing?  You need to send the phone in. ’ And I was like, ‘What’s going on with my stomach?’  They didn’t ask me about my burn.  They weren’t concerned with it.

Apple’s response.

In a statement following what some have dubbed as #ThrottleGate, the company issued a formal apology.

First and foremost, we have never — and would never — do anything to intentionally shorten the life of any Apple product, or degrade the user experience to drive customer upgrades. Our goal has always been to create products that our customers love, and making iPhones last as long as possible is an important part of that.


Featured image by Blogtrepreneur (CC by 2.0)

2 Responses

  1. Lest it be overlooked...

    Perhaps there was another reason why Apple intentionally “throttled” consumer’s iPhones, and “conveniently” offered a $29.00 battery swap for some of the “affected” iPhones rather than a free replacement. I am not a conspiracy theorist, but after reading the linked articles, if it is determined that there is in fact a serious safety issue such may require further investigation especially considering the number of iPhones worldwide. This concern is only exacerbated if Apple actually knew.

    At the very least, there may be additional older iPhones that require an immediate battery replacement rather than simply being “throttled.”

  2. Lest it be overlooked...

    I initially intended to limit my comment in the singular, however, since posting my last comment I became aware of a second iPhone battery explosion that took place in Spain; in other words, not one but two iPhone battery explosions within 48 hours ⎯ coincidence?

    Furthermore, a report has surfaced indicating that Apple has now delayed the $29.00 battery replacement offered to its customers as “part of an apology over its lack of transparency” until “late March to early April” due to supply limitations.

    The report further indicates that even if Apple cannot offer its “apology” to its customers directly, there are Apple Authorized Service Providers that are able to replace the iPhone batteries; however, these Apple Authorized Service Providers are reportedly charging more than Apple would have “to ensure that they are being fairly compensated.”

    This is only my opinion, but I think that if Apple were genuinely “apologetic” for throttling their customer’s devices in order “to prevent unexpected shutdowns,” given the recent battery explosions (due to unknown reasons), fires and burns (chemical or otherwise) that Apple would bend over backwards to pick-up the tab for their iPhone customers, especially if they were left with no other alternative but to take their devices to an Apple Authorized Service Provider. It is not, after all, the customer’s fault that there is not a sufficient supply of replacement batteries available.

    If the explosions (it should be noted that the iPhone battery was not even on a charger when it unexpectedly exploded in Zurich; it was simply being removed for replacement by Apple Store personnel), fires and burnings (chemical or otherwise) persist (you can be sure that if it happens again, it will be reported), or if it is otherwise found that there is actually a hardware defect responsible for these mishaps (the dangers of which have been mitigated by software updates, but, of course, that there is actually a hardware defect is only speculation at this juncture as Apple would have necessarily informed its customers and others that that was actually the purpose for the software updates rather than “to simply prevent unexpected shutdowns,” right?), perhaps instead of a battery replacement, it might be necessary to issue a total recall of the flawed devices.

    In view of the lack of replacement battery availability (or for any other reason or reasons best known to Apple), it might be prudent of Apple to immediately issue as a precautionary measure a warning or recommendation to its customers and employees in order to mitigate any further mishaps to its customers, employees and others to avoid iPhone multitasking, to turn off push notifications for apps that a user is not using frequently like Apple Music for example, to refrain from playing any demanding games, especially 3D games or otherwise to refrain from using any VR devices as “[p]ushing your GPU for too long is one of the quickest ways to overheat your phone,” to refrain from watching movies or music videos for any extended period of time especially on demanding applications that require a lot of processing power (GPU, CPU or a combination of both) such as Facebook (as it is reportedly, “one of the biggest battery drainers” – just imagine the “battery drain” when watching music videos through the Facebook App) and Netflix, to turn off or avoid using the Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GPS for prolonged periods, to turn the airplane mode on when in an area with poor reception, to list but a few.

    It may only be a coincidence, but it is noteworthy that Apple lowered its battery replacement fee to $29 for any customer with an iPhone 6 or newer, that is to say, the iPhone 6, 6S, and 7 which also happens to be the very same models in which Apple first installed its “A8, A9 and A10 processors that power the iPhone 6, 6S, and 7” [there may be more] as well as “some iPads.” I am not tech savvy, to be sure, but there may be some amongst the DMN readership or otherwise who are able to determine whether or not the cause of these problems is somehow attributable to Apple’s custom GPUs. If such is found to be the case, please, please ensure that I receive the bug bounty (or at least a fair portion thereof) from Apple for drawing attention to the defect.

    Having spent enough time on this particular matter, I leave you with some “comedic relief” (but its actually not funny at all):