Class Action Filed Against Apple Claiming that iPhone Software Consumes Users’ Cellular Data

Last week, a Washington state resident filed a putative class action complaint against Apple, Inc. for its unlawful and unfair business practices related to iOS software updates that supposedly consumed mobile phone users’ cellular data without their knowledge or approval. The class action was filed in the Northern District of California and alleges that Apple violated various state law business practice laws.

According to the filing, Apple iPhone users must use Apple’s mobile operating system, known as iOS, in order to run their mobile phones. In September 2019, Apple reportedly released iOS version 13, which it promised “would bring ‘improvements across the entire system that make your iPhone even faster and more delightful to use.’” The complaint further explains that Apple failed to disclose that iOS 13 contained hidden software code. The “consuming code” supposedly caused devices running iOS 13 to “consume cellular data without the user’s input or control, and without providing the user any identifiable benefit.”

The plaintiff averred that Apple’s underhanded encryption caused an increase in users’ cellular data consumption and costs to users who “pay their cellular provider directly in proportion to the data they use, or for iPhone users who pay for capped data plans.” Users soon reported the ostensible issue to Apple, complaining that their phones were using substantial amounts of data without explanation.

Yet, according to the filing, Apple did little in an attempt to fix the problem for months. Consequently, the plaintiff avers that “Apple’s silence exposes the truth: that the Consuming Code was intentionally introduced and maintained by Apple itself for its own undisclosed purposes and its own benefit. Apple also deliberately withheld from users the ability to control the costs associated with whatever undisclosed functions the Consuming Code performed.”

In June, the complaint claims, “Apple released iOS version 13.6—the 14th revision of iOS 13—which stopped the excess cellular data consumption.” The plaintiff seeks to certify a class of “all purchasers, owners, users, or lessees of any Apple iPhone who installed – any version of iOS 13 on their Apple iPhone(s) prior to Version 13.6, and who used a limited cellular data plan with that iPhone while iOS 13 was installed.”

On behalf of the class, the plaintiff sought injunctive relief because he and class members “will likely want to use future versions of Apple’s iOS; however, they expect that without injunctive relief, Apple will conceal defects in that iOS (or subsequently-released iOS).” The plaintiff brought claims under the California Consumers Legal Remedies Act, Unfair Competition Law, Computer Data Access and Fraud Act, and common law trespass to chattels.

The plaintiff is represented by Tousley Brain Stephens PLLC and Gibbs Law Group LLP.