Millions of iPhone users could be eligible for payouts, following the launch of a legal claim accusing Apple of secretly slowing down the batteries of older phones.
Justin Gutmann alleged the company misled users over an upgrade that it said would enhance performance but, in fact, it rather slowed down phones. He is seeking damages of around £768m for up to 25 million UK iPhone users. But Apple in its defence said it “never” intentionally shortened the life of its products.
The claim, filed with the Competition Appeal Tribunal, alleged Apple slowed down the performance of older iPhones, in a process known as “throttling”, in order to avoid expensive recalls or repairs. It relates to the introduction of a power management tool released in a software update to iPhone users in January 2017, to combat performance issues and stop older devices from abruptly shutting down.
Mr. Gutmann, a consumer champion, said the information about the tool was not included in the software update download description at the time, and that the company failed to make clear that it would slow down devices.
In his claims, he disclosed that Apple introduced this tool to hide the fact that iPhone batteries may have struggled to run the latest iOS software, and that rather than recalling products or offering replacement batteries, the firm instead pushed users to download the software updates.
“Instead of doing the honourable and legal thing by their customers and offering a free replacement, repair service or compensation, Apple instead misled people by concealing a tool in software updates that slowed their devices by up to 58%.”
Which iPhone Devices are Affected?
The models covered by the claim are the iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 6S, 6S Plus, SE, 7, 7 Plus, 8, 8 Plus and iPhone X models. Meanwhile, it is an opt-out claim, which means that customers will not need to actively join the case to seek damages. But Apple in its statement to the claims, slammed it saying it has no intentions to do so.
“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.”Statement by Apple
The claim by Mr. Gutmann came two years after a similar case was settled in the United States. In 2020, Apple agreed to pay $113m to settle allegations that it slowed down older iPhones. Thirty-three US states claimed that Apple did so to drive users into buying new devices.
Millions of people were affected when the models of iPhone 6 and 7 and SE were slowed down in 2016 in a scandal that was dubbed ‘batterygate’. At the time, Apple declined to comment, however, it said the phones were slowed to preserve ageing battery life.
Claire Holubowskyj, an Analyst at the research firm, Enders Analysis, said issues like this may continue to crop up, given the technical limitations of ageing batteries.
“Technology in newer devices improves in leaps and bounds, not as a steady crawl, creating issues when releasing software updates which have to work on devices with often wildly different capabilities. Apple generates 84% of its revenue from selling new devices, making them reluctant to hold back updates to ensure older models keep working smoothly.”Claire Holubowskyj, an Analyst at Enders Analysis
She added that “Until problems of devices and software updates outlasting and exceeding the capabilities of ageing batteries are resolved, this challenge will recur”.