Explained: The $935 million UK lawsuit accusing Apple of throttling the performance of older iPhones

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Justin Guttman, a consumer rights campaigner in the United Kingdom, is launching a class action suit against Apple seeking damages of around $935 million. The representative action is being filed against Apple for throttling the performance of some of the older versions of iPhone.

What is the UK suit about?

The class action suit being filed at the Competition Appeal Tribunal in London is to represent 25 million iPhone users in the UK who used any of the 10 iPhone models from the 2014 iPhone 6 until the 2017 iPhone X, including the iPhone SE. The suit claims that Apple abused its market dominance to engage in exploitative and unfair commercial practices.

In case of this lawsuit, Apple has said, as quoted by the BBC: “We have never, and would never, do anything to intentionally shorten the life of any Apple product, or degrade the user experience to drive customer upgrades.”

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Guttman’s suit is an “opt-out” claim, which means that any affected customers will not need to actively join the case to seek damages.

What is the accusation against Apple?

The Cupertino, California-based company is said to have misled iPhone users by applying a power management software update, released in January 2017 in iOS 10.2.1, that throttled the performance of the said devices.

In the case of some of the older iPhones, this update reduced the processor’s peak performance by up to 58%. Apple had said that this was introduced to cut the load on the phone’s battery. Later, in 2018, after this move was called out, Apple apologised for its handling of the episode, and launched a battery replacement programme for the affected iPhone models.

Have there been such lawsuits against Apple in other jurisdictions?

Yes, in 2020, the company settled a class action suit in the United States, which accused Apple of intentionally slowing down the performance of older iPhones to push consumers into buying new models. The company then paid around $500 million to settle the litigation without accepting any wrongdoing.

The French antitrust regulator in the same year levied a fine of around $27 million on Apple for throttling devices without informing customers. This time, Apple agreed to also display a statement on its website about the sanction for a month.

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