Lawsuit: Apple intentionally throttled performance of older iPhones to push people to buy new models

By Jonathan Bilyk | Dec 21, 2017

The back of an Apple iPhone 6   Wikimedia Commons

Within hours of Apple publicly confirming it had intentionally issued operating software designed to slow down older versions of its iPhone, a group of plaintiffs have dialed up a class action lawsuit against the tech maker, alleging Apple did so merely to push consumers to buy their newer phone models.

On Dec. 21, attorneys with the Sulaiman Law Group Ltd., of suburban Lombard, filed suit in Chicago federal court against Apple on behalf of a group of plaintiffs, all of whom said their iPhone 6 or iPhone 7 had been “throttled” after downloading operating system updates, causing their phone’s performance to suffer.

“Apple’s decision to purposefully slowdown or throttle down these devices was undertaken to fraudulently induce consumers to purchase the latest iPhone versions of the iPhone 7, as well as new phones such as the iPhone 8 and iPhone X,” the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit was filed the day after Apple announced it had, in 2016, “released a feature for iPhone 6, iPhone 6s and iPhone SE” and was now extending that same “feature” to iPhone 7 models, to purportedly address battery issues caused by aging lithium-ion batteries that power the devices, particularly when placed under the demands of new operating systems, which demand higher performance from the devices.

According to Apple’s statement, the batteries’ inability to keep up with those demands resulted in “instantaneous peaks” which “can result in the device unexpectedly shutting down to protect its electronic components.”

However, the lawsuit noted, to that point, Apple had never publicly confirmed or informed its customers it was intentionally slowing their devices’ performance to extend “the life of their devices” or for any other reason.

The lawsuit noted Apple could have also told consumers they could solve the problem by installing new batteries.

However, the lawsuit said Apple chose to keep that information from consumers to nudge them toward buying newer model iPhones, including, most recently, its iPhone 8 and iPhone X models.

According to Apple’s website, the company will replace iPhone batteries for $79, if the device is not covered under their AppleCare+ service program. For those customers, battery replacement is free, the website says.

An entry-level iPhone X sells for around $1,000, according to retail listings. An iPhone 8 is listed at around $700.

“Apple’s decision to not inform consumers that they could improve the performance speed of their devices by replacing their device’s batteries reduced the effectiveness and usefulness of the subject telephones,” the lawsuit said.  “As a result of Apple’s conduct, the named Plaintiffs incurred unnecessary expenses through the purchase of the new iPhones.”

Named plaintiffs in the action include Ala Abdulla and Lance Raphael, listed only as residents of Illinois; Sam Mangano, of Ohio; Kirk Pedelty, of North Carolina; and Ryan Glaze, of Indiana.

According to the complaint, plaintiffs Abdulla, Raphael and Mangano bought iPhone 7’s to replace their throttled iPhone 5 or 6 models, while Pedelty purchased an iPhone 8 and Glaze, an iPhone X. They said they were all prompted into making the new phone purchases to address performance slowdown issues in their old devices, which they now blame on Apple’s updates and performance-throttling “feature.”

They all asserted they wouldn’t have made the additional purchases if they had known their phone issues could be solved by purchasing a new battery.

The lawsuit accuses Apple of violating consumer fraud laws in Illinois and other states, as well as of committing common law fraud nationwide.

The plaintiffs seek to expand the action to include anyone across the country who purchased a newer model iPhone to address performance issues, but were never told by Apple a replacement battery could solve their phone’s performance issues.

The lawsuit does not specify the damages sought by the plaintiffs, but indicates plaintiffs will seek punitive damages and attorney fees.

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Organizations in this Story

Apple Inc. Sulaiman Law Group, Ltd. U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois

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