Apple users are finally reaping the benefits of a $65 payout each as a result of a class action lawsuit that was initiated in 2018. The lawsuit alleged that Apple intentionally slowed down older iPhones to coerce consumers into upgrading to newer models. The tech giant agreed to resolve the case by paying up to $500 million in March 2020. However, the case faced a series of hurdles, including appeals and objections to settlement terms.
The final obstruction to the conclusion of the five-year legal battle came when the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals denied an appeal from two iPhone owners who objected to certain aspects of the settlement. This development marked the culmination of a lengthy legal process during which nearly three million claims were submitted since the lawsuit was originally filed.
In 2017, Apple acknowledged slowing down the iOS software on older iPhones, attributing the action to preventing older batteries from causing devices to shut down unexpectedly. However, the company vehemently denied that this tactic was meant to coerce customers into purchasing new batteries or upgrading to newer iPhone models.
The legal representation for the iPhone claimants, Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, LLP, announced through a press release that the 9th Circuit had ruled against Apple’s efforts to dismiss the case, permitting the litigation to progress. Claims put forth in the lawsuit encompassed violations of the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, California’s Computer Data Access and Fraud Act, California’s Unfair Competition Law, and Trespass to Chattels.
Apple’s defense during the lawsuit included the argument that lithium-ion batteries naturally degrade over time, causing a decrease in their efficacy. However, the company faced criticism for not informing users about the iOS updates that allegedly slowed down their phones. The issue only came to light when consumers reported their iPhones shutting down despite displaying a remaining battery level of 30%.
Mark C. Molumphy, a partner at Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, LLP, emphasized the extensive effort invested in securing the settlement: “The settlement is the result of years of investigation and hotly contested litigation. We are extremely proud that this deal has been approved, and following the Ninth Circuit’s order, we can finally provide immediate cash payments to impacted Apple customers.”
Apple, while denying any wrongdoing, eventually acceded to paying claimants between $310 million and $500 million based on the number of approved claims. Some claims remain under review.
The iPhones affected by the case included the iPhone 6, 6Plus, 6s Plus, and SE running on iOS 10 2.1 systems before December 21, 2017. Additionally, the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus running on iOS 11.2 or later prior to that date were also included.
Tyson C. Redenbarger, another partner at Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, commented on the wider implications of the case: “This was an important case, lying at the intersection of privacy, consumer product, and computer intrusion laws. The settlement provides substantial relief to Apple consumers and, going forward, will help ensure that customers are fully informed when asked to update their products.”
The scandal, dubbed “batterygate,” triggered investigations in more than 30 states, including Arizona, Arkansas, and Indiana, in 2020. Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich emphasized the need for transparency from tech companies: “Big Tech companies must stop manipulating consumers and tell them the whole truth about their practices and products.” Apple ultimately settled the case filed by the State of California for $113 million, despite maintaining its innocence.
Unfortunately, the window to claim the payouts has closed. However, those who participated in the lawsuit can finally enjoy the compensation they were entitled to receive as a result of this protracted legal battle.