Apple on Wednesday agreed to pay $113 million to settle consumer fraud lawsuits brought by more than 30 states over allegations that it secretly slowed down old iPhones, a controversy that became known as “batterygate.”
Apple first denied that it purposely slowed down iPhone batteries, then said it did so to preserve battery life. It maintained that it wasn’t necessary for iPhone users to replace their phones.
But states attorneys general led by Arizona found that Apple, the most valuable company in the world, acted deliberately to spur people to buy new iPhones.
“Many consumers decided that the only way to get improved performance was to purchase a newer-model iPhone from Apple,” Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich wrote in a complaint made public on Wednesday. “Apple, of course, fully understood such effects on sales.”
The slowdown reportedly affected Apple phones that were released in 2015 and 2016 and led some phones to unexpectedly shutdown. It first came to light after iPhone users complained on Reddit and technology blogs.
At the time, Apple claimed the slowdown impacted a “very small number” of iPhones, but state investigators say, behind the scenes, Apple worked to conceal the problem from the public. State attorneys general say millions of smartphones were affected by the battery issue.
An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment on the settlement. As part of the deal, Apple did not admit to breaking any laws or any other wrongdoing.
Eventually, in December 2017, Apple did admit to the battery slowdowns, leading the company to issue a rare apology.
“We have never — and would never — do anything to intentionally shorten the life of any Apple product, or degrade the user experience to drive customer upgrades,” Apple stated at the time.
Nonetheless, the legal challenges continued.
In March, Apple agreed to pay up to $500 million to settle claims of intentionally slowing down older phones. That settlement called for Apple to pay consumers at least $25 per iPhone, though some consumers who had already spent hundreds on new devices saw the payments as too little, too late.
As part of Wednesday’s settlement, $113 million will be distributed among the states, including California, Tennessee and Pennsylvania. The funds will cover attorneys’ fees and be used to fund future consumer protection investigators. Apple also agreed to operate a website that makes updates to its iPhones that affect batteries “clear and conspicuous” to consumers.
Starting in 2018, iPhone users have been able to better control an iPhone’s battery life and check on the health of the battery.
Arizona Attorney General Brnovich said the settlement on Wednesday exposed Apple’s deceptive behavior about battery throttling.
“Big Tech companies must stop manipulating consumers and tell them the whole truth about their practices and products,” Brnovich said. “I’m committed to holding these goliath technology companies to account if they conceal the truth from their users.”