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Tesla owners win legal fight after software update crippled older Model S batteries

Automaker didn't even bother defending itself

Tesla has been ordered by a Norwegian court to pay more than 30 customers $16,000 each for slashing the battery life and charging abilities of older Tesla Model S vehicles with a software update.

Owners of Tesla Model S vehicles purchased between 2013 and 2015 found that after they downloaded and installed the code in 2018, the electric batteries powering their cars ran out of juice faster than usual and took longer to recharge.

Frustrated by the change, more than 30 people in Norway filed an official complaint against Tesla to the Oslo Conciliation Board in December. That panel – the lowest rung in the nation's judiciary for civil cases – this month found the American automaker had indeed throttled the performance of customers' hardware, and ordered the biz to pay the complainants 136,000 kroner each ($16,300, £11,500) – a total of nearly $490,000 or £345,000 – according to Nettavisen, a Norwegian news site.

Tesla has until May 31 to compensate its punters or file an appeal by June 17. It’s unclear what the manufacturer will choose to do; it didn’t bother responding or sending a representative to take part in the case. An estimated 10,000 Teslas in Norway may have been affected by the issue. The Register has asked Tesla for comment.

Model S owners around the world have also noticed similar problems with their car batteries. In 2019, Tesla was sued in California for hampering vehicles' batteries. David Rasummen, the lead plaintiff in the case, claimed Tesla deliberately weakened them after there were multiple incidents of vehicles randomly bursting into flames from a fire that started in its batteries.

Rasummen alleged that instead of replacing the batteries, Tesla throttled their performance in a software update for safety reasons and didn’t say how the change would impact vehicles or which type of vehicles were affected.

“Despite having known of the potential risk and problems that would certainly arise, Tesla attempts to continue fraudulently concealing this information and is clearly motivated by greed and supported by a reckless neglect of its customers,” the complaint stated.

Tesla has also been sued in Denmark over a similar issue. ®

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