Queensland-based law firm Shine Lawyers is investigating a class action against Apple Inc to get compensation for users of older iPhones affected by updates that slow down their smartphones.
In mid-December, when Reddit members discovered that Apple had issued updates that caused older iPhones to slow, the tech giant issued a formal statement that these updates were to prolong the life of devices.
Class actions were then filed across the United States against Apple, claiming it defrauded iPhone users by slowing their phones without warning to make up for poor battery performance. A case was also filed in Israel.
Now, Australia might have its own class action with Shine Lawyers saying the firm was considering taking its own legal action against the technology giant and encouraging affected Australian iPhone users to come forward.
Shine Lawyers class action expert Jan Saddler said there were several cases that could be brought against Apple for iPhone 6, 6S, SE and 7 defects.
“In Australia, we will be looking at a class action for strict product liability, negligence, breach of warranty, and a violation of consumer trust,” she said.
“There was no express consent among iPhone users to have their phones slowed down.”
While it would take “some investigation” to determine whether the legal action would proceed, with different laws in Australia to the United States, Ms Saddler said the firm would have made a decision on whether to commence the action by early 2018.
She said the company had “misled millions of consumers globally into believing that their iPhones were malfunctioning, causing them to upgrade to newer and more costly devices” and that slowing down the devices gave the company an “unfair sales advantage over their competitors”.
These actions could contravene Australian Consumer Law and so the action would be “likely” to go ahead, she said.
What compensation might result from a class action if successful is difficult to discern, but she said it would not be unreasonable for class action members who had upgraded due to a slowing phone to seek compensation for the cost of the replacement.
In some cases, the cost of a smartphone upgrade can exceed $1000.
Tech commentator Peter Griffin told Stuff legitimate reasons existed for the Apple updates, but the reason for a class-action lawsuit was the lack of transparency.
He said there was a lot of mistrust that technology companies make things with “built in obsolescence”, that companies only make a phone or computer to last a certain amount of time so people are “locked into an upgrade”.
He also said it was expensive and difficult to change the battery in the iPhone without going to a third party agent, which would void the warranty.
An Apple spokeswoman previously issued a statement about the slowing of iPhones, saying lithium-ion batteries became less capable in cold conditions, when they had low battery charge or when they aged over time “which can result in the device unexpectedly shutting down to protect its electronic components”.
She said a feature was released in 2016 to smooth out the peaks when needed in certain older devices to prevent them from unexpectedly shutting down.
Apple would not provide further comment.
UPDATE: Bannister Law also began investigating a class action against Apple for users of older iPhones in December.
Charles Bannister, solicitor and principal of Bannister Law, told Business Insider “Consumers may not be aware or may not have agreed to purchase a phone that may slow down or not perform how it should after updating the software.”
“We have spoken with consumers who have updated their iPhone software and experienced issues with phone usage.”