Apple faces court battle after consumer champion’s claim is given the go-ahead

£853 million legal claim accusing Apple of selling iPhones with defective batteries gets the green light to go to trial from the UK competition court. 

The Competition Appeal Tribunal has today given the go-ahead for Justin Gutmann’s £853 million claim against Apple accusing the company of misleading customers over an upgrade that it said would improve performance but, in fact, slowed phones down.

Consumer champion, Gutmann, said: 

‘I’m heartened that the Competition Appeal Tribunal has given the nod for our groundbreaking claim to proceed to a full trial. This paves the way for millions of consumers, who were left paying for battery replacements or new phone models, to receive the compensation they deserve.’

This blow for Apple comes month’s after a US court upheld a compensation settlement against Apple in a similar claim, meaning that the tech giant must now pay out up to $500 million (£412 million) in compensation to US iPhone users.

Apple accused of misleading iPhone owners

Gutmann is accusing the technology giant of ‘software throttling’ – where iOS updates deliberately slowed down the overall performance of iPhone with ageing batteries to stop them shutting down suddenly – in order to mask the poor performance of early battery types.

His claim alleges that Apple misled users over the incident by pushing them to download software updates it said would improve the performance of some devices to disguise the fact that the affected iPhone couldn’t cope with new iOS processing demands. 

The claim relates to the introduction of a power management tool released in a software update to iPhone users in January 2017. This was rolled out to slow older iPhone models with ageing batteries – which may have struggled to run the latest iOS software – in order to prevent abrupt device shutdowns.

Gutmann said information about this tool was not included in the software update download description at the time and did not make it clear it would slow down a user’s iPhone. The legal claim says Apple did add a mention of the tool to the release notes for the update on its website at a later date but didn’t make it clear that it would slow down older iPhones.

Dorothea Antzoulatos, director and lawyer at Charles Lyndon, the legal firm representing Gutmann, said: ‘By slowing down the iPhones of millions of people, Apple failed to be transparent with their customers and abused their market position and customers’ loyalty.’

An Apple spokesperson said: ‘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.

‘Our goal has always been to create products that our customers love, and making iPhones last as long as possible is an important part of that.’

Are you one of the 24m Apple customers who could be owed money?

Around 24 million people in the UK may be eligible for compensation, including those who bought one of the affected iPhone models after 12 December 2016 (iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 6S, SE, 7, and 7 Plus models). 

The claim seeks compensation for each model owned and is an opt-out claim, meaning customers to not at this stage need to actively join the case to seek damages. Sign up to Consumer Voice to be kept informed as the case progresses.

UK court gives go-ahead subject to new funding arrangements

The Competition Appeal Tribunal has said the claim can go to a full trial subject to new funding arrangements being put in place. Gutmann has said he is confident that the funding arrangements are now compliant with new funding rules. This will be the first claim to be certified by the tribunal since a ruling from the UK Supreme Court in July 2023 set out new parameters for litigation funding

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