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Apple sued over shoddy iPhone touchscreens

Class action accuses Cupertino of ignoring handset defect

Apple is being sued by a class of former iPhone 6 and 6 Plus owners who accuse the company of failing to address a design problem that caused the handset's touchscreen to malfunction.

A complaint [PDF] filed in the Northern California US District Court accuses Apple of violating both California state and US federal laws for selling and refusing to repair out-of-warranty handsets afflicted with an issue that causes the iPhone's touchscreen to become unresponsive or fail completely.

The problem, which was laid out last week by repair site iFixit, occurs when touchscreen controller chips lose their soldered connections to the controller board. It's unique to the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, and has been said to be particularly difficult to repair, as it requires the chips to be re-soldered to the board.

The complaint, filed by three named plaintiffs on behalf of a nationwide class of iPhone 6 and 6 Plus owners, accuses Apple of violating warranty, false advertising, and competition laws in the US by not repairing the broken handsets.

"Apple has long been aware of the defective iPhones," the filing reads. "Yet, notwithstanding its longstanding knowledge of this design defect, Apple routinely has refused to repair the iPhones without charge when the defect manifests."

The suit goes on to accuse Apple of failing to use a pair of features employed in previous models that could have protected the chips from becoming damaged in the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. Those measures included the use of a metal shield over the chips in the iPhone 5s and and a solder "underfill" to better secure the chips in the 5c.

The latest iPhone models, the 6s and 6s Plus, are said to have remedied the issue by moving the chips from the controller board to a less vulnerable position on the touchscreen unit itself.

"By contrast, the iPhone's design fails to incorporate underfill or a shield over the logic board," the complaint reads.

"This makes the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus substantially less durable to foreseeable and reasonable use by consumers and ultimately causes the Touchscreen Defect."

In addition to the usual damages and attorney fees, the complaint asks that Apple be required to acknowledge the issue as a defect and repair or replace all iPhone 6 and 6 Plus handsets that suffer the touchscreen problem.

Apple did not respond to a request for comment on the matter. ®

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