Apple faces class action suit over data bills tied to Wi-Fi Assist

26 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Apple Sued Over iOS 9 Wi-Fi Assist.

Apple is being sued for $5 million in a class-action lawsuit over its Wi-Fi Assist feature, which is meant to speed up people’s internet connections.

Some people have complained about seeing a significant uptick in cellular data usage since downloading Apple’s , and now the iPhone maker is facing a legal battle over the issue.A class action suit filed Friday in federal court in San Jose, Calif. claims that Apple AAPL -3.16% failed to properly warn iOS 9 users that a new feature, called Wi-Fi Assist, automatically switches to using cellular data when a device is connected to a weak Wi-Fi signal. The tool is supposed to help users out by having the phone automatically switch to the phone’s data connection rather than Wi-Fi if the latter is running slow. The point of the feature is to ensure that users maintain a strong Internet connection, but William Scott Phillips and Suzanne Schmidt Phillips, who filed the class action, claim that Apple should have to reimburse users for data overuse charges stemming from use of Wi-Fi Assist, which is turned on by default when users update their devices to iOS 9. But the lawsuit claims that users are being charged for data use without knowing it, since their phones are automatically switching over to cellular data and so using up their allocation.

As a result, users have reported accidentally running up large bills for mobile-data usage when they used their phones while believing they were on their home Wi-Fi. The lawsuit accuses Apple of misleading its customers and of violating California’s Unfair Competition Law as well as the state’s False Advertising Law. “[Apple] intentionally chose to have the default setting of the Wi-Fi Assist as activated while at the same time chose to omit the likelihood of data overcharges to consumers that do not have an unlimited data plan,” the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit also notes that Apple finally posted instructions on its website showing users how to turn off the Wi-Fi Assist’s default setting only after a “flood of articles, comments and complaints” appeared online as users noted the feature’s use of cellular data. It says the advice “still downplays the possible data overcharges a user could incur,” and that “reasonable and average consumers use their iPhones for streaming of music, videos, and running various applications – all of which can use significant data.” Apple is not the only company that ships a feature similar to Wi-Fi Assist. Samsung, HTC and LG all have equivalent features on their own phones (Samsung’s is called Smart Network Assist); none of the Android manufacturers have faced a similar lawsuit, however. But the numerous complaints available online do not support this position,” according to the filing, which points to several tweets from people who were irked by increased data usage.

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