Apple Slapped With Class Action Suit in Israel for Deliberately Slowing Older iPhones

The claimants say the company breached its basic duties toward users by failing to disclose that ‘innocent’ software updates would negatively impact their phone use

Apple CEO Tim Cook talks about the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus during an Apple event in San Francisco, March 9, 2015.
Eric Risberg/AP

Apple was hit with a 500-million-shekel (about $125 million) class action lawsuit in Israel on Monday, a week after the company admitted to deliberately slowing the performance of older iPhone models and some days after similar suits were filed in the United States.

The two Israelis behind the suit argue that Apple breached its duty toward consumers by concealing information.

Apple claimed last week that its intention in providing software updates that slowed the phones was to make aging batteries last longer. But the lawsuits filed in the U.S. charge that the company's silence led users to wrongly conclude that their only option was to buy newer, pricier iPhones.

The Israeli class action filed in Tel Aviv on Monday says that Apple is known for its “closed” nature: The code of its system is not accessible, and users are entirely dependent on Apple’s judgment regarding their use of the operating system and the device. The claim accuses Apple of breaching its basic duties toward users by failing to disclose that “innocent” software updates would have negative implications for their phone use.

The claimants say that the software updates impaired their ability to browse the web, check email and use various applications. “There is no doubt that information about the device slowing is important, and cardinal, and users had the right to get [that information] from Apple before deciding whether to install the software updates,” the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit also alleges that although Apple says it had technical motives for releasing its slowing updates, it had a clear interest in hiding the information from users because it would prefer they replace old iPhones with new ones as soon as possible.

Last Thursday a lawsuit against Apple was filed in Chicago federal court on behalf of five iPhone owners from Illinois, Ohio, Indiana and North Carolina. All claimants say they never would have bought new iPhones had Apple told them that simply replacing the batteries would have sped up their old ones. The suit alleges Apple violated consumer fraud laws.

A similar lawsuit was also filed in Los Angeles.

For years Apple enthusiasts have suspected that software updates actually impaired the performance of older generation phones.

Apple never responded to these allegations until a post on the website Reddit raised the possibility that phone performance deteriorated after users updated their operating system.

Apple subsequently announced that the software updates were intended as a fix to “smooth out” the phones’ power consumption, preventing sudden phone shutdowns and as a fix for degraded lithium-ion batteries that could otherwise suddenly die.

“Our goal is to deliver the best experience for customers, which includes overall performance and prolonging the life of their devices,” the company said in a statement. It said it released the fix for iPhone 6, iPhone 6s and iPhone SE and later extended it to iPhone 7.

The Chicago plaintiffs allege that Apple’s motive may have been sinister, though no evidence for that is provided in the filing. “Apple’s decision to purposefully ... throttle down these devices was undertaken to fraudulently induce consumers to purchase the latest” iPhone, the claim says.

The Associated Press contributed to this report