Apple Faces Multiple Lawsuits for Slowing Down iPhones to Extend Battery Life

Some five dozen iPhone customers have filed at least 59 separate lawsuits since December over the throttled-phone issue. PHOTO: ELIZABETH SHAFIROFF FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
Some five dozen iPhone customers have filed at least 59 separate lawsuits since December over the throttled-phone issue. PHOTO: ELIZABETH SHAFIROFF FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Dozens of iPhone owners are taking Apple Inc. to court over its disclosure that it slowed down old phones to preserve battery life, in what could become one of the biggest legal challenges involving the company’s smartphone since its 2007 debut.

Some five dozen iPhone customers have filed at least 59 separate lawsuits since December accusing Apple of slowing their phones to spur people to buy new iPhones, according to court records. Apple said in December that its software update introduced at the start of 2017 reduced the performance of older phone models. The suits seek an unspecified financial award, attorneys’ fees and free iPhone battery replacements, as well as a corrective advertising campaign.

The lawsuits also seek class-action status. Efforts to combine the cases will kick off at a March 29 legal meeting in Atlanta, setting in motion an effort to have the class certified. A lead attorney and a court location also will be chosen.

Class-action lawsuits are frequently filed against big companies, but the large number of individual suits concerning a single issue is unusual, say legal experts. It is also roughly triple the number of suits filed in 2010 over the iPhone 4’s tendency to drop calls.

Apple settled the resulting class-action lawsuit in 2012, agreeing to either pay iPhone 4 owners $15 or give them a free case, according to Ira Rothken, an attorney who represented the plaintiffs. The total potential settlement amount was $315 million.

The latest spate of iPhone lawsuits could present Apple with unique challenges. The company is already working hard to convince consumers that its newest devices are worth $1,000 or more, as global demand for smartphones stagnates and people hold on to their devices longer.

While legal experts say the plaintiffs face an uphill battle, a multiyear court fight over the phone-throttling issue could force the secretive company to disclose sensitive information about its software development process, according to analysts.

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SOURCE: Tripp Mickle and Kirsten Grind
The Wall Street Journal