Attorneys general for 33 states and the District of Columbia have reached a $113 million settlement with Apple over allegations that the iPhone maker delayed functionality in several generations of the device to hide a design flaw in the battery.
The states allege that Apple disabled functionality in older iPhones without telling customers it did it or why. That protection violates state immunity laws, the attorneys all argued.
“Apple released information about their batteries slowing down iPhone performance, all while shipping it as an update,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra tell when he announced the decision. “Today’s decision ensures consumers will have access to the information they need to make a well-informed decision when purchasing and using Apple products.”
In 2016 and 2017, customers using both the regular and Plus versions of the iPhone 6, 6S, SE, and 7 devices complained that their phones became much slower over time. User testing found that iPhone functionality is apparently designed to preserve battery life or avoid unexpected shutdowns related to battery failures as handsets mature.
Apple confirmed in December 2017 that new versions of iOS do in fact intentionally reduce performance on those devices to prevent taxing the batteries. The company offered owners of those phones lower-cost battery replacements — $29, instead of $79 — throughout 2018 to mitigate the issue.
The company’s move to outsourcing is probably understandable, but Apple’s lack of transparency has landed it in trouble with state and federal regulators in addition to potential customers. Consumer suit wrapped before state suits: Apple settled a class-action lawsuit in March, offering iPhone owners up to $25 for the affected device.
The proposed resolution includes states (PDF) does not kick any money to customers. $113 million will instead be distributed among participating offices to support their consumer protection divisions and cover the cost of litigation. In addition, the most important decision requires Apple to be more transparent about its behavior, providing “clear and transparent information” to customers about the management of device performance and battery health.
Apple seems to have learned that particular lesson after being caught in the first place: after catching flak over throttling, Apple in 2018 introduced a system that allows users to choose whether to enable power-management settings that limits the machine’s performance.
Attorneys general for Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia participate in the distribution.