Class Action Complaint Contends Apple “Throttled” Devices With iOS Updates

A Northern District of California complaint filed on Tuesday accused Apple Inc. of engaging in unfair business practices by requiring software updates for certain Apple iPhones that slowed the devices and reduced their performance. The class action claims that Apple intruded upon devices that the plaintiff, Best Companies, Inc., bought, when Apple “secretly” updated them, thereby diminishing their performance.

According to the filing, Best Companies is an Oklahoma company that purchased various 6, 6 Plus, 7, or 7 Plus Apple iPhones from September 2014 through March 2017.  The defendant, Apple, is “the world’s largest information technology company by revenue and the world’s third largest mobile phone developer,” the complaint reports.

Allegedly, beginning in about January 2017, Apple installed updates that “‘throttled’ or reduced the speed at which the phones operate,” purportedly to extend the devices’ battery life. Apple supposedly did this by issuing updates that “purposefully degraded performance in order to have the batteries draw less power to run the devices,” without informing the plaintiff and putative class that the obligatory updates would have such an effect.

Further, the complaint argues that the throttling Apple introduced was intended to “address a defect in the design of the Devices: the fact that the Devices’ batteries lacked the capacity and power delivery to keep up with the demands placed upon them by Apple’s hardware and software.” The plaintiff claims that on Dec. 20, 2017, through a statement published on its website, Apple “tacitly admitted” that the software updates intentionally slowed its phones.

Eight days later, the complaint explains that “Apple issued an ‘apology’ of sorts,” when it released a further explanation of the “power management” taxing iPhone performance. Decreased performance reportedly manifested through “longer app launch times, lower frame rates while scrolling, backlight dimming (which can be overridden in Control Center), and lower speaker volume by up to -3dB,” among other issues.

The plaintiff claims that Apple violated the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act by causing the plaintiff and class members to download and install mandatory updates without informing them that code contained within the update would diminish performance. This, Best Companies contends, occurred secretly, without its information or consent.

The complaint also alleges two California violations, under its Unfair Competition Law and Computer Data Access and Fraud Act. The final cause of action is trespass to chattels. The complaint requests certification of a nationwide class of non-natural persons that purchased, owned, or leased one or more iPhone SE, 6, and 7 model devices.

The complaint seeks declaratory and injunctive relief in addition to the payment of actual and statutory damages, restitution, and attorneys’ fees and litigation costs, among other requests.

The plaintiff is represented by KamberLaw, LLC.

Under a proposed settlement in a separate lawsuit against Apple Inc. with similar allegations, Apple agreed to give class members $25 for each iPhone they purchased.