Apple is facing a prospective class-action lawsuit in New York over allegations it misrepresented the levels of water resistance of its iPhones.
The complaint [PDF], filed in US district court for the Southern District of New York by Bronx resident Antoinette Smith, claims Apple failed to properly explain to users how its waterproofing tests differed from likely real-world conditions.
Since 2016, all iPhones have touted some level of water resistance, using the now-familiar IP rating. The iPhone 12 has been certified to IP68, for example, and Apple said it can withstand up to 6 metres of water for half an hour.
But these certification tests were performed in tightly controlled environments, with no tidal forces or contaminants in play. Real-life conditions are different. Salty ocean water, which tends to be more alkaline than pure water, can play havoc with electricals. The same is true when it comes to pool water.
Additionally, despite Apple having touted high water resistance levels for its smartphones, it has refused to cover water damage under warranty. Within the internals of the iPhone, Apple has concealed multiple liquid damage indicator tabs. Positioned strategically within the device, these change colour when exposed to moisture, and inform service personnel that the phone is no longer serviceable under warranty.
Smith claimed her iPhone 8 encountered water “consistent with the IP rating of the device,” as well as Apple’s marketing of the phone, yet was refused a repair under warranty when she returned it to Apple. This resulted in Smith being forced to stomach repair costs, as well as a lower eventual resale price.
Additionally, the suit claimed that Smith bought the iPhone 8 based on Apple’s promises of water-resistance, and would not have bought it “in the absence of [Apple’s] misrepresentations and omissions.”
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The law firm that brought the suit on behalf of Smith stated she had "bought the device because she uses a smartphone every day and like most smartphone users, her device may experience limited water contact and/or immersion."
The suit has accused Apple of breaking New York’s General Business Law's Consumer Protection Statute and seeks to create a class of everyone who has ever bought an iPhone in the state of New York.
In addition to obtaining damages and costs, the suit aims to obtain injunctive relief that would prevent Apple from marketing the iPhone as waterproof without the necessary throat-clearing about the IP certification process, as well as how water exposure can affect the device’s warranty.
This isn’t the first time Apple has faced flak over its marketing of the iPhone’s waterproofing. Last year, Italy’s antitrust watchdog fined the company €10m over allegations it had misled consumers about the levels of protection offered, and whether they would be covered under warranty.
Smith, for what it’s worth, hasn’t been soured on Apple forever. Per the filing, she plans to buy another iPhone again, provided Apple fixes its marketing. ®