Thirty-three states, the District of Columbia, and the district attorneys (DAs) for five California counties announced a $113 million settlement with Apple over allegations that the company slowed customers’ old iPhones to preserve their batteries and to address unexpected shutdowns in some iPhones. The settlement ends the states’ investigation into alleged misrepresentations Apple made about software updates that throttled processing performance to manage insufficient battery power in first generation SE and generations 6 and 7 iPhones.
Arizona, Arkansas, and Indiana initiated the states’ investigation when the company’s throttling efforts drew national scrutiny in 2017. Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich said, “Big Tech must stop manipulating consumers and tell them the whole truth about their practices and products.” California and Pennsylvania conducted their own investigation — hence the DAs joining the California settlement, but both states participated in the global multistate settlement.
In addition to monetary payment to the states, Apple agreed to provide information to consumers about iPhone battery health, performance, and power management. Apple must make this information available on its website, in updates to installation notes, and in the iPhone user interface. Apple must also ensure that consumer-facing staff and Apple-authorized iPhone retailers are sufficiently familiar with the battery health information and that they communicate it to consumers where relevant. The company had already addressed some of the states’ concerns with a 2018 iOS update that allows users to check the health of their batteries and disable performance throttling.
Apple recently entered a proposed class action litigation settlement related to the same allegations. Under that proposed settlement, Apple could pay up to $500 million nationwide in consumer restitution. The average consumer was eligible to receive up to $25 per claim; however, the claim period has now passed.
The lead states have expressed the broader significance that the attorneys general’s (AGs) bipartisan settlement could have, with Arizona Attorney General Brnovich sending a message to “these goliath technology companies” that they will be held “accountable when they conceal important information from users.” This statement bears additional importance as state AGs have been moving forward with probes of Big Tech on a variety of issues, including consumer protection, antitrust, and data privacy concerns.