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

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 …

  1. Julian 8 Silver badge

    make it hurt

    Why do these states, countries impose such small fines. If you are going to fine a couple like that, make it hurt as otherwise they will just write those values off as an expense

    1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      Re: make it hurt

      Brown envelopes?

    2. Lurko

      Re: make it hurt

      The fines seem small because most of these states apply the concept of compensatory damages within their legal systems, and that's tied to the actual harm caused. And let's face it, the overwhelming majority of affected iPhone users wouldn't have noticed a thing.

      The UK does allow for additional "exemplary" damages in some cases, but compared to the way some US states apply punitive damages they don't amount to anything. I'd guess the European courts are generally similar in that area, even allowing the fundamental differences between countries' legal systems.

      Personally I think the US legal system is fundamentally broken, and although you might think that in this instance Apple should have been fined more, I'd suggest there's far more downsides than upsides to the way the US does law. The only people who get rich are the lawyers, and the "victims" often get diddly squat.

      1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

        Re: make it hurt

        and that's tied to the actual harm caused. And let's face it, the overwhelming majority of affected iPhone users wouldn't have noticed a thing.

        If these actions cause virtually no harm (from legal point of view) then what is the point to have legislation in the first place?

        Let me guess. Lawyers got to eat.

        Actually, the second option is these laws exist to keep competition at bay. Imagine small business doing what Apple or other giants do. The mere mention of the incoming lawsuit would have bankrupted the company, so smaller businesses won't even touch anything that could trigger those.

        This means the laws themselves are corrupt.

        1. Furious Reg reader John

          Re: make it hurt

          Or maybe those small business would have thought that it wouldn't be worth the risk trying to screw over their customers, whereas the big firms know they have the legal resources to put these sorts of claims off for an eternity and then only face a relative pittance of a fine if it eventually gets that far.

          1. teebie

            Re: make it hurt

            I came here to ask why this is being dealt with as anti-trust. I no longer feel the need to ask.

          2. elsergiovolador Silver badge

            Re: make it hurt

            Or maybe those small business would have thought that it wouldn't be worth the risk trying to screw over their customers

            That's what I am talking about. The laws are not designed to stop corporations from screwing over their customers, but only letting the big ones do it and have all the pie to themselves.

            That is the definition of corruption.

            1. Furious Reg reader John

              Re: make it hurt

              So you are saying it would be less corrupt if the law allowed small businesses to ignore it as well and screw over their customers willy-nilly, rather than just mega corps who have the legal wherewithal to take on nation state legislators?

              Apologies, my calendar mistakenly says 2 November - I hadn't realised that it was 1 April.

              1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

                Re: make it hurt

                No, I am saying that the fines should be proportionate to the scale of the business, so that if e.g. Apple engaged in such a behaviour it would have the same ruinous consequence as it would have for small business.

                1. greenwood-IT

                  Re: make it hurt

                  Any fine needs to hurt the shareholders. Then the board of the company would listen, and consider the impact of their decisions before trying to screw over the customers.

      2. Roopee Bronze badge

        Re: make it hurt

        I think you are confusing fines with damages - they are two completely different things. Fines are punishments for breaking the law, and are payable to the state; damages are compensation to parties affected by your actions and are payable to those parties.

    3. Gordon 10

      Re: make it hurt

      Why should it have to hurt? Leaving aside the fact that you probably wrote this out of Apple spite - what harm was done by this action, and therefore what damages are due?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: make it hurt

        "Hurt" in this respect is a Legal Term. No one was physically harmed (in the creation of this post)

        A 'hurt' can include a mere inconvenience. someone barges into the line that you were in thus delaying service by 30seconds... You were hurt and so, sue the living daylights out of them. Take them for every penny that the do and don't own. That is the US way.

        Unless you are a [boo hiss] lawyer, all this gobbledygook won't make sense. Add on a sprinkling of Latin just to confuse us plebs, it is little wonder that Trump can burn through $50M (at least) a year in legal fees. BTW, not one bent penny had come from his own money (SOP for a Billionaire in the USA). All his legal work has been funded by his cult members.

        1. Peter2 Silver badge

          Re: make it hurt

          There is actually very little Latin in the UK legal system. Laws are written in fairly plain english and the only latin involved is in underlying concepts that are literally thousands of years old, such as that laws should be written so that both "actus rei" ("actually committed the act") and "mens rea" ("deliberately intended to do it") should be present for a crime to have been committed.

          Hence you can be playing cricket or football, knock a ball which then breaks a window and you can be actually guilty of breaking the window without committing criminal damage.

          Or, for something more IT related let's look at the Computer Misuse Act.

          Which says "A person is guilty of an offence if— "

          A =true [ANDIF] B = true [ANDIF] C=true

          If GuiltyOfOffence= true THEN GOTO section 3 for sentencing.

          I would submit that you couldn't actually write it in much more plain english if you tried. To make it impossible to find you guilty you do not need any sprinklings of latin, you simply demonstrate that either condition A, B or C are not valid.

      2. Julian 8 Silver badge

        Re: make it hurt

        Nope, have some Apple kit and in a previous life, supported a lot of users on their kit.

        My comments mean any company that flouts the law or does things like this, afterall, in this case some people will think their phone slowing down means they need to get a new one, nope, not really, it is just your supplier screwing you,.

        Fines should be a deterrant and to make it one, you need to size things accordingly.

    4. jollyboyspecial Silver badge

      Re: make it hurt

      We're not talking about fines here, we're talking about compensation. What can actually hurt more is legal costs. The legal costs of the other party may be high, but I'll guarantee Apple's own legal costs will be much higher. Companies like Apple don't go to a Claims-R-Us no win no fee firm they will be paying the highest fees for the "best" (as in most expensive) lawyers they can find.

      However I do think that this sort of thing should be criminal and as such should attract hefty fines.

  2. JimmyPage Silver badge

    Even if Apple lose

    I can't see every phone owner getting any money. I bet the lawyers do though.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Even if Apple lose


      Rolls Royce have just released their new EV.

      Quite pricey of course.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Even if Apple lose

        "Rolls Royce have just released their new EV."

        In my experience of working with exceptionally well paid London lawyers, they aren't given to Flash Harry cars like a Roller, and they'd also be mindful that Rolls Royce Motors is now essentially a trim badge for a top of the range BMW. People who used to own a Ford Granada Ghia will be familiar with the concept.

        Most lawyers of my acquaintance generally prefer something understated, like a top end Merc or Audi estate in an unremarkable colour, but with around 600hp under the bonnet.

        1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

          Re: Even if Apple lose

          but with around 600hp under the bonnet.

          Because nothing proclaims the calibre of a solicitor quite like a 600hp motor paired with an immaculate driving licence - it's the quintessential metaphor for possessing a rap sheet more pristine than their conscience and a summation more supercharged than their gearbox. It's less about adeptly manoeuvring through the statutes and more about how deftly you can shift gears whilst evading legal snares and speed cameras. After all, who requires 'reasonable doubt' when you're equipped with 'unreasonable horsepower'?

          1. KittenHuffer Silver badge

            The Pedants are Rovolting!

            I loved reading that, and gave the first up, ...... though I would point out that a supercharger is nothing to do with a gearbox!

    2. jmch Silver badge

      Re: Even if Apple lose

      "I can't see every phone owner getting any money. I bet the lawyers do though."

      That's the way it usually seems to work, although the article notes that in the US, class members are expected to receive $65 each (which sounds reasonable for a relatively minor defect in a $600 device). I would say that generally speaking the larger the per-user amount the more chance that some effort is made to actually get them the money rather than the US cheap copout of simply donating whatever the lawyers didn't take to the judge's favourite charity

      1. AlbertH

        Re: Even if Apple lose

        class members are expected to receive $65 each (which sounds reasonable for a relatively minor defect in a $600 device)

        It's certainly not a "minor" defect. It was a 40 - 60% slowdown of the device, partly to improve battery life in aging batteries, but more to persuade the iFaithful that they need to buy a new phone. It was a cynical ploy to push sales, and should be punished as such. After all, Apple have a captive market, and they're going to exploit it just as much as they can!

  3. Roland6 Silver badge

    Apple shot themselves in the foot over this.

    There is nothing intrinsically wrong with throttling; if it really does extend the life of a failing battery.

    However, not providing feedback to the user that this is happening and they really need to do something, is clearly wrong.

    It would seem by not (deliberately?) warning users Apple missed out on the opportunity to offer battery replacement services and/or upgrade to new iPhone.

    Compare this to the HP laptop battery check app which is regularly updated to ensure users of HP battery packs are aware if their particular battery pack is from a batch with an overly large number of faults. In some respects all batteries could be uniquely numbered so that the app could warn about faulty third-party batteries. Perhaps this is something that should be a standard part of the battery management routine.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: extend the life of a failing battery

      It's life wouldn't need to be extended if the user could just swap it out without forking over more than a hundred bucks.

      And it would be up to the user to choose, not the whim of Apple.

      1. Tubz Silver badge

        Re: extend the life of a failing battery

        Agree, why should I replace a functioning phone that may still be receiving updates due to a poor battery, this is just Apple having cake, eating it and making us pick up the bill. No part of any equipment that degrades over time should not be within reason, user replaceable.

      2. NXM Silver badge

        Re: extend the life of a failing battery

        True. That's why I chose a Fairphone. Snap the back off, whip battery out, put a new one in, replace back. 15 seconds max.

      3. YetAnotherXyzzy

        Re: extend the life of a failing battery

        True, but anyone who chose to buy a phone with a nonreplacable battery, whether it be from Apple or otherwise, got exactly what they wanted. As my fellow commentard said, Fairphone.

    2. Mishak Silver badge

      "all batteries could be uniquely numbered"

      The batteries in my iPhone and MacBook report serial numbers, so they are already uniquely numbered.

    3. jollyboyspecial Silver badge

      Re: Apple shot themselves in the foot over this.

      Yes there is something wrong with throttling to extend the battery life if you don't give the user choices.

      Choice one "Your battery is starting to fail we can slow down your phone to extend your battery life but this will give you a phone so slow as to be almost unusable - would you like us to cripple your phone? Y/N"

      Choice two "Your battery is likely to fail. It's just a poxy little lithium cell, would you like to get a local shop to replace it for a few quid or would you prefer to take it to your local Apple store and pay a fortune to maintain a warranty that has either expired already or that we probably won't honour anyway?"

      Consumer choice is supposed to be enshrined in law, but it isn't really is it?

      1. YetAnotherXyzzy

        Re: Apple shot themselves in the foot over this.

        I personally agree with you about user choice, but not everyone does. Indeed, I'd argue that Apple's trying to make things easy for the user by reducing choice is what a fair bit of their user base wants and appreciates. You and I should avoid Apple, but that doesn't mean they're evil, they're just not for us.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    a billion-dollar payout

    minus the UK bank's foreign partner bank's fee, UK bank's inter-bonking fee and UK bank's foreign transaction fee. Did I mention UK lawyers' fee somewhere before all this? The rest will be distributed as a 10p off your next apple repair service ticket/voucher, valid until end of the afternoon* Justice has been served again!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: a billion-dollar payout

      I wonder what the massively high standard of proof that it was *you* that purchased the iPhone will be too ? Hopefully in these days of email receipts easily satisfied.

      But I bet you are plum out of luck if you have a second hand iPhone. Even from a legitimate retail vendor.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: email receipts

        Don't mean a sodding thing. Or at least to Argos they don't. Try getting a refund with just the bank debt and email receipt! Impossible. The cause is their wonky computer systems. It took me going to a lawyer and getting a solicitors letter threatening the county court to get my money and legal costs back.

        I'll never shop there again.

        1. BartyFartsLast

          Re: email receipts

          Weird, all it took for me to get a full refund on a shonky tumble drier from Argos was a phone call and email with some numbers from the original purchase.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: a billion-dollar payout

      "UK bank's inter-bonking fee "

      For crying out loud, shush! You'll give politicians ideas.

      1. very angry man

        Re: a billion-dollar payout

        There was a lot of discussion about the arrivals and departures tax being extended to include the house hold toilet, but the amounts were large and really stank

  5. KittenHuffer Silver badge

    Not sure ....

    .... whether to be happy or sad.

    Sad that I don't get to join in on the potential to get my hands on some of the Fruity One's money. Or happy that I have avoided iProducts like the plague!

    ------------> Undecided!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not sure ....

      Be happy about it. Imagine having to learn a completely new OS! Save your money.

    2. BartyFartsLast

      Re: Not sure ....

      Quite happy I didn't get deceived by them, similarly happy that I didn't have to share the payback of money they took from me with a bunch of vulture lawyers.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Congratulations, you have been awarded compensation

    Here’s a £1.99 coupon off your next Super Gold Plated iPhone 16 Max Extreme Special Edition…

  7. Gordon 10

    Its a weird one

    This case has always struck me as a bit strange.

    As others have pointed out showing that apple actually profited from this action is counterintuitive as they lost out on upgrades and similar. No-one has shown or proven any nefariousness on Apples part merely what appears to have been a poorly communicated effort to improve battery life and stability.

    I dont see how ANY sane judge could rule that people have suffered a financial loss from Apples activities, and therefore are due damages. Even if they have suffered a loss there is no way to show its been anything but trivial.

    This stinks of a monetisation play by greedy lawyers rather than any pro-active consumer led action.

    1. GlenP Silver badge

      Re: Its a weird one

      Indeed, the telling part of the Tribunal's judgement is, "There remains a lack of clarity and specificity in the PCR's case."

      I've had, and managed, phones covered by the case, I have not noticed any detrimental effects or had any such effects reported by the users. In performance terms our usage is relatively low (does anyone ever really notice the performance unless they're playing games?) so any extension of battery life would be welcomed.

    2. Catkin Silver badge

      Re: Its a weird one

      That's quite charitable towards Apple. They have a history of borderline-gaslighting the user when people start noticing their product limitations, like claiming display replacement issues on iPhones were down to shoddy third party components until someone took the time to swap them between two brand new iPhones.

      In this case, the throttling is less likely to be immediately attributable to the OS than reduced battery life or crashes (caused by an aged battery being too weak to support full CPU speeds) and could easily be attributed to poorly written applications. This insulates them from immediate negative publicity and the risk of having to pay for bulk battery replacements. As per usual, they're fairly arrogant about the possibility of being caught in the act.

    3. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Its a weird one

      I dont see how ANY sane judge could rule that people have suffered a financial loss from Apples activities, and therefore are due damages. Even if they have suffered a loss there is no way to show its been anything but trivial.

      Surely showing a loss is easy. My phone appeared to be working slowly, and could no longer keep up with my apps, so I bought a new one. As opposed to, my batterly life started dropping, so I bought a power bank.

      For example my old iPad 1 really didn't like iOS 5. It became almost unusable. Whereas if I'd had the option to keep it on iOS 4, it would have been much faster - though I would have started to lose access to newer apps. That's a trade-off I should have made the decision on, not Apple!

      Similarly with a phone, you can't complain that the battery is getting worse over time. That happens. It's also relatively transparent to the user, and depending on how heavily you use the thing, you might chuck it to one of the kids and buy a new one. Or if you're a light user, just remember to charge it more often, or get a power bank. Hiding that battery loss by making the phone slower is both dishonest - and makes it harder for the user to know what's going on. And I don't think I'm being overly cynical to suggest that Apple were hoping for the users to say, "phone's too slow now, time for an upgrade!" Which they might otherwise have held off until, until battery life become worse.

      I'm not including the replaceable batteries thing here, because the non replaceable ones do allow them to make the phones smaller. So even though that's also a benefit to Apple in selling phones that might otherwise be upgraded, there's at least a rationale to that decision. Even if I don't like it.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Make your mind up!

    Paragraph 3 says it includes iPhone 8, then later it says it doesn’t include iPhone 8. Can I claim for a new phone or not?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not sure about this one

    When the HFS+ to APFS transition happened and everything ran like ass, the very first thing Apple support checked for me was battery age. So on the one hand, people who try to do their own proactive maintenance and believe support to be useless would have been burned badly by this issue, but those who called support and then followed basic 1st line all the way through would have either received a battery replacement or otherwise resolved their issue via wiping via iTunes (the latter fixing performance for me).

    The real use of the throttling was to make sure phones didn’t “just turn off” in emergency scenarios when they still reported 20% or more charge. Hindsight shows the BlackBerry approach may have been better, of shutting everything (except emergency calling) off much earlier than the true point of low battery when a battery is unhealthy. I don’t remember anyone successfully suing BB for robbing them of their extra charge and such a safety measure probably had saved lives too.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like