Claim launched against Apple for £768 million over battery ‘throttling’

Allegations made in a class action suit by a man called Justin Gutmann are that automatic iOS updates caused older iPhones to slow down, and that breached UK competition law.

The claim is that Apple breached UK competition law ‘through its exploitative and abusive behaviour in relation to the supply of iPhones and iOS updates.’ The allegation appears to be that Apple released an automatic iOS update updates which caused certain iPhones to slow down as well as cause performance issues, which is described as ‘throttling’ in the claim.

The action has been launched by Justin Gutmann, the proposed class representative, which essentially means he acts on behalf of all members of the class. In this case that seems to mean anyone in the UK that owned an iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 6S, 6S Plus, SE, 7, 7 Plus, 8, 8 Plus or X.

The claim says that these iPhones received an iOS update, 10.0 onwards, ‘which installed a throttling feature which led to unexpected shutdowns or poor device performance.’ He values the collective sum of damages at £768 million.

A website set up for the claim explains:

The claim is against Apple for breaching UK competition law by abusing their position of dominance in related markets by applying exploitative and unfair commercial practices that caused widespread harm to UK consumers and businesses.

These practices include: pushing users to download iOS updates which placed demands on the iPhones that exceeded the capabilities of the batteries installed, therefore increasing the likelihood of unexpected shut-downs; pushing iOS updates on users which contained a ‘throttling’ function, which resulted in significant reductions in the performance of these iPhones; and failing to communicate in a transparent manner about the unexpected shutdowns and subsequent ‘throttling’.

Gutmann has apparently been approved as the Class Representative in another competition claim, and he has instructed law firm Charles Lyndon, which characterises itself as competition law specialist, to represent him in it. We’re told Lyndon has vast experience of the UK collective action regime, and Charles Lyndon also has a number of group actions in the High Court.

This isn’t the first time the question has been raised. Back in 2017, which appears to be around the time the updates in question were deployed, there were a series of articles in reporting on the issue older iPhones running slower, which led Apple to release an official statement, as reported by The Verge:

Our goal is to deliver the best experience for customers, which includes overall performance and prolonging the life of their devices. Lithium-ion batteries become less capable of supplying peak current demands when in cold conditions, have a low battery charge or as they age over time, which can result in the device unexpectedly shutting down to protect its electronic components.

Last year we released a feature for iPhone 6, iPhone 6s and iPhone SE to smooth out the instantaneous peaks only when needed to prevent the device from unexpectedly shutting down during these conditions. We’ve now extended that feature to iPhone 7 with iOS 11.2, and plan to add support for other products in the future.

So presumably that will be Apple’s line going into court as well. The question of whether this breached UK competition law ‘by abusing their position of dominance’ will be for the lawyers to thrash out.


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