Batterygate bound for Blighty as UK court approves billion-dollar Apple compensation case

24 million more angry iPhone users get their turn to give iGiant a kicking

The UK’s Competition Appeal Tribunal has allowed a case to proceed in which Apple will be accused of misleading iPhone users about the state of their smartphone batteries, potentially exposing Apple to a billion-dollar payout.

Led by market researcher Justin Gutmann, the lawsuit claims that Apple unlawfully deceived consumers issuing iOS updates that throttled iPhones’ CPUs to extend their battery life, an act that fooled consumers into thinking their phones were slow and/or their batteries were in better health.

Some 24 million British users of iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 6S, 6S Plus, SE, 7, 7 Plus, 8, 8 Plus and iPhone X models are estimated to have been impacted by the issue, it was claimed. Apple failed to block the legal action case. The iGiant could now potentially be forced to cough up £853 million ($1.03 billion) in damages if it loses the collective action case, Guttman told The Register.

"I'm heartened that the Competition Appeal Tribunal has given the nod for our groundbreaking claim to proceed to a full trial. This paves the way for millions of consumers, who were left paying for battery replacements or new phone models, to receive the compensation they deserve," Gutmann said in a canned statement.

"Facing a $2.3 trillion company like Apple is no small challenge. The company has immense resources to defend its anti-competitive practices. Today, however, brings us one step closer to levelling the playing field and holding one of the world's biggest and most powerful corporations accountable for its actions."

The decision by a three-person tribunal at the Competition Appeal Tribunal is not a finding of fact Instead it approved a “Collective Proceedings Order” – a rough UK equivalent to a class action – on grounds that the plaintiffs or proposed class representative (PCR) have a decent chance of winning the case by arguing that Apple was not transparent about the fact its software updates impacted users' iPhones.

"There remains a lack of clarity and specificity in the PCR's case. This impacts both the questions of the existence of abuse and the manner in which loss to the class is to be assessed," states the Tribunal’s decision [PDF]. "We conclude that the methodology being advanced by the PCR offers a realistic prospect of establishing loss on a class wide basis if he establishes the aforesaid relevant facts at trial."

The decision also contains a small win for Apple: the iPhone 8 and X aren’t listed as among the devices impacted.

It's not the first time Apple has been accused of throttling iPhones. In fact, numerous consumers have sued the iGiant before. A total of 66 class-action lawsuits in the US were combined in the US, which Apple agreed to settle for up to $500 million in 2020. Around three million users are expected to receive damages of $65 apiece.

In a separate case, Apple agreed to pay $113 million to 34 US States for throttling iPhone 6 and 7 devices. France fined the fruit-phone outfit €25 million for failing to notify users that software updates would mean older iPhones will get slower over time. Italy decided €10 million was enough.

The Register has asked Apple for comment. ®

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