Apple’s legal problems over battery slowdowns aren’t going away any time soon

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iPhone Slowdown Lawsuits

Apple has to face at least 61 lawsuits that were filed against the iPhone maker soon after the company acknowledged that it slowed iPhones down via software to prevent unexpected shutdowns caused by old batteries.

A report a few days ago said that all class actions may be merged into a single lawsuit in the near future. In the meantime, U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation ruled that all iPhone slowdown lawsuits should be transferred to the U.S. District Court for Northern California.

Here’s an excerpt from the ruling:

These actions share factual questions arising from allegations that Apple included code in updates to its mobile operating system (iOS) that significantly reduced the performance of older-model iPhones. Plaintiffs also allege that Apple misrepresented the nature of the iOS updates and failed to adequately disclose to iPhone owners the impact the iOS updates would have on the performance of their iPhones.

Discovery regarding the engineering of the iPhone and the iOS updates likely will be technical and complex. Plaintiffs assert similar causes of action for false advertising, alleged unfair business practices, trespass to chattels, breach of contract, and unjust enrichment. Moreover, plaintiffs bring these actions on behalf of overlapping putative classes of iPhone owners. Moreover, plaintiffs bring these actions on behalf of overlapping putative classes of iPhone owners. Centralization thus will eliminate duplicative discovery; prevent inconsistent pretrial rulings, including with respect to class certification; and conserve the resources of the parties, their counsel, and the judiciary

More than half of the lawsuits were already filed in the Northern District of California, MacRumors explains.

Apple first confirmed the intentional slow down of iPhones back in December, soon after a Redditor discovered that his iPhone’s speed returned to default after a battery replacement.

The company then introduced a cheaper battery replacement program as well as a new battery management setting that would let users disable throttling. All the while, Apple maintained the idea that it’s not slowing down devices to convince customers to replace older iPhones that may feel slower than before.

Apple – BGR

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Apple’s claim that it warned us about iPhone slowdowns is corporate spin at its worst

iPhone Slowdown Apple Explanation

The US Senate asked Apple various questions about the recently discovered iPhone slowdown practice. The iPhone maker issued a response on February 2nd, which was made public on Tuesday. In it, Apple explains the whole iPhone battery mess, providing a timeline of events, existing fixes as well as other mitigations for the future.

Apple’s explanation proves that the worst thing about the iPhone slowdown is that Apple lied about having informed users of what was about to happen once iOS 10.2.1 was released last year.

The first time Apple acknowledged that it hasn’t informed its customers properly back in January 2017 was a few weeks ago. “When we did put [the software update] out, we did say what it was, but I don’t think a lot of people were paying attention,” Apple’s Tim Cook said in an interview with ABC News. “And maybe we should have been clearer, as well.”

The letter to Congress makes that sort of misinformation even clearer.

First of all, Apple released the iOS 10.2.1 update in January 2017, a month before it actually tried to tell us what the update did.

“We first delivered this power management feature to iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, and iPhone SE as part of iOS 10.2.1, in January 2017,” Apple explains.

Then, in February 2017, it “told” users about the slowdown.

“Once we verified that the feature was effective in avoiding unexpected shutdowns, we updated the iOS 10.2.1 ReadMe notes in February, 2017. Specifically, the iOS 10.2.1 ReadMe notes said that this update ‘also improves power management during peak workloads to avoid unexpected shutdowns on iPhone,” Apple said.

I’m sorry, Apple, but telling users in an updated change log, a month after the update, that the update “also improves power management during peak workloads to avoid unexpected shutdowns on iPhone” will not make me realize that the phone will be slowed down in certain cases.

Don’t get me wrong, I do understand why Apple had to revert to this fix. I happen to have been an iPhone 6s user right until the iPhone X rolled out, but I never noticed the slowdowns. Nor did I experience annoying iPhone shutdowns before the iOS 10.2.1 rolled out, although it may have shut down a few times overnight from what I can recall. I did replace the battery of the iPhone 6s long before the iPhone slowdown scandal was unearthed, as I was preparing it for a new life with a family member. Finally, I’m also a non-believer in the theory that Apple intentionally slows down iPhones to sell newer models.

But telling iPhone users that you warned us about what was going to go down, is a pretty huge “alternative fact,” Apple. That has been my main complaint all along. I wish I knew in advanced that iOS is clever enough to slow down the iPhone so that it doesn’t die unexpectedly. I wish I had the option of turning the feature down, just like it’ll happen from now onward.

Republican Senator John Thune, who penned the initial letter to Apple, also acknowledged in a statement that Apple’s disclosures of the update “came up short.”

“I appreciate Apple’s response to my inquiry and the company’s ongoing discussions with the committee,” Thune said, according to Business Insider. “In those conversations, Apple has acknowledged that its initial disclosures came up short.”

“Apple has also promised the committee some follow-up information, including an answer about additional steps it may take to address customers who purchased a new battery at full price,” he added.

Apple’s full letter follows below.

Apple – BGR

US government investigating Apple over iPhone slowdowns, report says

Apple iPhone slowdowns: new government investigation

The US Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission have opened an investigation into whether Apple violated securities disclosure laws by releasing software that slowed down older iPhones, Bloomberg is reporting. According to “people familiar with the matter,” the government has opened an initial inquiry, and asked for information from Apple.

Neither Apple nor the SEC has issued a statement on the matter yet. However, Apple’s stock, which was already having a bad day, dropped 1.4 percent in afternoon trading.

Last month, Apple admitted that a software update in iOS 10 and iOS 11 slows down some iPhone models when their batteries degrade below a certain point. The slowdowns only affect iPhone 6, iPhone 6S, and iPhone 7 regular and Plus-sized models, and Apple claims that the software updates were intended to prevent accidental shutdowns due to aged batteries, rather than slow down older devices.

However, the company is already facing dozens of class-action lawsuits in the US alone, and the governments of several countries, including France, Italy, and Korea, have opened up consumer-protection investigations into Apple. To try and mitigate the damage, Apple will introduce a toggle to disable performance changes with iOS 11.3, and it has dropped the price of replacement batteries to $ 29 in the meantime.

If Bloomberg‘s report is accurate, it appears that any investigation would examine a breach of securities law, rather than any false advertising or consumer protection statutes. The SEC requires publicly-traded companies to disclose known risk factors to investors, and Bloomberg‘s report hints that those requirements may be at the heart of this particular investigation.

Apple – BGR

U.S. Govt. Launches Investigation into Apple iPhone Slowdowns

The U.S. government is investigating whether or not Apple broke federal laws with a software update last year that throttled older iPhones.

The U.S. Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission have reportedly launched a probe that will determine whether the Cupertino tech giant violated securities laws. The investigation centers around Apple’s public disclosure of the software update’s throttling mechanism, and whether the company misled investors about the performance of older devices.

At this point, the government has only requested information from Apple, according to a source familiar with the matter cited by Bloomberg. The source added that the probe is private, and since it’s still in its early stages, it’s too soon to conclude that the DoJ and SEC will come down on Apple for anything.

Spokespeople for the DoJ and SEC declined to comment on the matter, due to the investigation being private. In addition, Bloomberg said that an Apple spokesperson didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

‘Batterygate’ Timeline of Events

It’s only the latest event in a controversy following Apple’s announcement that it had implemented a software measure that slowed down iPhones as their batteries aged. The power management mechanism was meant to protect against random reboots and other issues that could take place due to degrading batteries on devices like the iPhone SE, iPhone 6s and iPhone 7.

The backlash centers around the fact that Apple wasn’t transparent about the iPhone slowdowns when it released the software in early 2017. Apple admitted to throttling older iPhones several weeks ago, nearly a year after it had implemented the power management mechanism.

Since then, Apple has seen a wave of consumer outrage and increased scrutiny over iPhone slowdowns. As of Jan. 12, there were a total of 32 class action lawsuits levied at the company across the U.S., as well as several government probes investigating the matter in other countries like France and Italy.

Apple did apologize for the lack of transparency and began offering discounted battery replacements so that users could get their devices to perform normally. The vast increase in repair orders and constrained stock of batteries have had some users jumping through hoops to get new batteries for their devices, however.

Additionally, the company will release new features in iOS 11.3 that will let users keep a closer eye on their iPhone battery health. As promised by CEO Tim Cook, the software update will also let users turn off throttling for older devices. With the throttling feature toggled off, iPhones might perform better, but they will also be prone to random rebooting.

The situation doesn’t bode well for Apple, which is also struggling with other software and hardware-related issues (some of which aren’t the company’s fault). Earlier on Tuesday, Bloomberg reported that Apple was delaying certain iPhone and Mac software features to focus on quality improvements for its existing platforms.

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South Korean prosecutors probe Apple over iPhone slowdowns

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A day after a South Korean consumer group filed a complaint against Apple over the company’s handling of iPhone battery issues, prosecutors on Friday said they have launched a probe to determine whether the iPhone slowdown debacle amounts to planned obsolescence.
AppleInsider – Frontpage News

Investigations into Apple’s iPhone Battery Slowdowns Spread to Italy and South Korea

Italy and South Korea on Thursday joined a growing list of countries in which class-action lawsuits and government investigations into Apple’s iPhone battery slowdowns are underway.

Italy’s antitrust body revealed it had opened a probe into allegations that Apple used iOS updates to slow older smartphones and push clients into buying new models (via Reuters). The Italian watchdog said Apple had failed to inform customers that the updates might have a negative impact on the performance of their phones, suggesting the company might have infringed four separate articles of the national consumers’ code.

In a first among the recent wave of battery probes, Samsung is also suspected of orchestrating “a general commercial policy taking advantage of the lack of certain components to curb the performance times of their products and induce consumers to buy new versions,” said the Italian watchdog. If found guilty, the two companies risk multi-million euro fines.

Meanwhile, a South Korean consumer group has filed a criminal complaint against Apple CEO Tim Cook, accusing his company of defrauding iPhone users by slowing down devices without warning to compensate for poor battery performance.

In its complaint, filed Thursday, the advocacy group Citizens United for Consumer Sovereignty accused Apple of destruction of property and fraud. According to Reuters, the group also represents around 120 plaintiffs in a civil damage suit filed against Apple earlier in January.

Apple has already admitted that it slows down some older iPhones with degraded batteries during times of peak power usage in order to prevent unexpected shutdowns, and accepts that it should have provided a clearer explanation when it introduced the power management feature in iOS 10.2.1.

Following an apology, Apple has implemented a battery replacement program that allows all customers with an iPhone 6, 6s, 7, 6 Plus, 6s Plus, 7 Plus, and SE to replace their batteries for a reduced fee through the end of 2018.

Apple has also said it is introducing better battery monitoring features in a future iOS update, which will include the ability for customers to turn off the power management feature it introduced in iOS 10.2.1. However, despite efforts to rectify the issue, the company is now facing lawsuits, state investigations, or consumer group probes in countries including China, France, and the U.S. over the controversy.

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Italy Is Now Investigating Apple, Samsung Over Device Slowdowns

Italy’s antitrust regulatory organization has launched a probe into allegations that Apple and Samsung used software to throttle older devices, according to a new report.

The Autorit Garante della Concorrenza e del Mercato (AGCM) is investigating the two tech giants due to a slew of consumer complaints of poorer device performance after operating system updates. It’s looking to determine whether or not the performance throttling is being done intentionally to force Italians to buy new devices, the AGCM said in a statement.

Notably, the watchdog group did not specifically mention Apple’s battery-related power management system in its statement, but said that the Cupertino company failed to offer enough information to guarantee users an “adequate level of performance.”

Apple and Samsung are being accused of orchestrating “a general commercial policy taking advantage of the lack of certain components to curb the performance times of their products and induce consumers to buy new versions,” the AGCM said.

The antitrust body alleged that Apple and Samsung may have infringed on four separate articles of Italy’s national consumer code. If found guilty, the U.S. and South Korean company could face fines to the tune of millions of euros, Reuters reported.

It’s also interesting that Samsung is being included in the AGCM’s investigation. Prior to today, there have been no widespread reports of consumer backlash due to throttling of Samsung’s devices.

Apple’s Battery Woes

In December, Apple admitted to throttling older devices as their batteries aged in an effort to prevent random shutdowns and other battery-related issues. The company apologized following a wave of controversy, but maintained that it has never — and will never — intentionally shorten the lifespan of a product.

In addition to the apology, Apple began to offer discounted battery replacements and promised more in-depth battery health information in an upcoming version of iOS. Apple CEO Tim Cook also revealed on Wednesday that users could possibly toggle the device-throttling power management system on or off in a future update.

Despite that, a slew of lawsuits has been levied at the company — including suits filed in California, New York, Illinois. Apple also faces legal complaints in France, where “planned obsolescence” is explicitly illegal. French prosecutors have reportedly launched their own investigation into the allegations.

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Apple CEO Tim Cook named in South Korean complaint over iPhone slowdowns

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South Korean consumer group Citizens United for Consumer Sovereignty this week filed a criminal complaint against Apple CEO Tim Cook, alleging the company’s decision to throttle iPhones with depleted batteries amounts to destruction of property and fraud.
AppleInsider – Frontpage News

Senator questions Apple over intentional iPhone slowdowns

Enlarge / A functional iPhone X, unlike the ones that went through recent stress testing. (credit: Samuel Axon)

After public outrage, a US Senator has posed questions to Apple about its deliberate slowdown of older iPhones due to aging battery issues. Senator John Thune (R-S.D.), who chairs the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, wrote a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook questioning the level of transparency the tech giant should have provided users before slowing down its devices.

According to a Reuters’ report, Thune writes in the letter that “the large volume of consumer criticism leveled against the company in light of its admission suggests that there should have been better transparency.”

Thune asks Apple if the company had made any of these practices known in software update details and if users had the option to decline installing software updates. Thune then also questions if Apple considered offering free battery replacements to affected customers or rebates to those who had already paid full price for a battery replacement. Thune’s deadline for Apple to reply with answers is January 23.

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apple – Ars Technica

Chinese consumer group latest to ask Apple for additional information about iPhone slowdowns

Questioning into Apple over its iPhone slowdown announcement continues today. Reuters reports that a Chinese consumer group has asked the company for additional information regarding slowing down older iPhones, demanding an answer before this Friday…