Apple urged a London tribunal on Tuesday to block a $2 billion mass lawsuit accusing it of hiding defective batteries in millions of iPhones by “throttling” them with software updates.
The company is facing a lawsuit worth up to 1.6 billion pounds plus interest, brought by consumer champion Justin Gutmann on behalf of iPhone users in the United Kingdom.
Gutmann’s lawyers argued in court filings that Apple concealed issues with batteries in certain phone models and “surreptitiously” installed a power management tool which limited performance.
Apple said in written arguments that the lawsuit is “baseless” and strongly denies its iPhones’ batteries were defective, apart from in a small number of iPhone 6s models for which it offered free battery replacements.
The company also says its power management update introduced in 2017 to manage demands on older batteries or with a low level of charge only reduced an iPhone 6’s performance by an average of 10%.
Gutmann on Tuesday asked London’s Competition Appeal Tribunal to certify the case and allow it to proceed towards a trial.
Apple acknowledged that a software update released in 2017 hampered the performance of devices, although it claims the software was meant to protect the phone’s battery life.
The company previously paid $113m to settle a similar case in Arizona, and $500m to settle another in California.
Gutmann’s claim has been filed with the Competition Appeal Tribunal, the UK’s specialist judicial body that hears cases relating to anti-competitive market practices.
It is an opt-out claim, meaning people who owned an iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 6S, 6S Plus, SE, 7, 7 Plus, 8, 8 Plus and iPhone X model do not need to actively join the case to seek damages.
The saga began following a study by a user who claimed that Apple’s tech automatically slowed phones when the battery had a diminished charge capacity. Apple admitted causing the issue and apologised for the apparent downgrade.
In a statement, the company explained that as the lithium-ion batteries used in its phones age they become less able to provide the top levels of electrical current needed.
The problems with peak current draws especially occur when batteries are cold or low on charge – “which can result in the device unexpectedly shutting down to protect its electronic components”, Apple said.
Lithium-ion batteries lose their capacity over time due to the physical wear-and-tear of ions passing through the material of the battery.
But iPhone users had complained about their devices turning off abruptly even when they had a significant amount of charge left.