A proposed class action filed late last week claims Apple Inc. has misled consumers with regard to its iPhones’ water-resistant qualities.
Per the case, while consumers believe based on the defendant’s advertising that their iPhones will resist damage from contact with water up to a certain depth and length of time, these representations are “false and misleading.”
In reality, the lawsuit argues, certain “fine print disclaimers” purport to clarify that the iPhone’s water-resistant certification levels are much more limited than consumers expect and make it nearly impossible for customers with water-damaged iPhones to have their devices repaired under warranty.
The case argues that Apple’s misrepresentations have allowed the company to sell its iPhones at a premium price that consumers would not have been willing to pay had they known the truth about the devices’ water-resistant qualities.
“The newest iPhones regularly cost more compared to other similar top-of-the-line smartphones, represented in a non-misleading way, regarding their resistance to water and liquid contact, and higher than they would be sold for absent the misleading representations and omissions,” the complaint states.
“Waterproof” vs. “Water-Resistant”
According to the lawsuit, consumers have been misled by Apple’s “artificial distinction” between water-resistant and impermeable to water, i.e., “waterproof.”
Apple, the case alleges, has tended to “conflate the two” terms in its marketing and promotional materials without clarifying the difference, leading consumers to believe their iPhones are more protected from water than they really are.
Per the case, the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) developed ingress protection (IP) standards that allow manufacturers to certify their devices’ levels of resistance to dust and water. Both the iPhone 7 and the iPhone 8 are rated IP67, with the “6” referring to dust protection and the “7” to water protection, the suit says. Both iPhone models were represented as able to resist water up to a depth of one meter for up to 30 minutes, according to the complaint.
The iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max are rated IP68, promising water resistance up to four meters for 30 minutes, while the iPhone 12 models were marketed as able to resist water up to a depth of six meters for up to 30 minutes, the suit says.
The iPhones’ water-resistant qualities were further emphasized by advertisements showing the phones being “splashed, immersed in water and/or hit with powerful jets of water,” the lawsuit relays. Per the case, Apple’s representations led consumers to reasonably believe that their iPhones would not sustain damage due to water exposure in the advertised contexts.
Apple Disclaims Coverage for Water Damage, Lawsuit Alleges
What consumers have likely missed when deciding whether to buy an iPhone is that Apple has “insufficiently qualified” its claims with regard to iPhones’ water-resistance certifications in “fine print disclosures,” the suit alleges.
According to the case, the iPhones’ IP certification levels are based on “highly controlled laboratory conditions” using only static and pure water, which is not representative of the conditions the devices will encounter in everyday life.
“This means that consumers who stand at the edge of a pool or ocean and whose devices are splashed or temporarily immersed, will be denied coverage, because the water contained chlorine or salt,” the complaint states.
Moreover, the suit says, Apple’s one-year warranty purports to exclude damage proven to be caused by liquids, which is determined by verifying whether the phone’s liquid contact indicator has turned red, indicating liquid has entered the device. Per the case, Apple does not inquire whether the liquid contact indicator was triggered due to “unauthorized or improper use” of the iPhone.
The lawsuit goes on to state that the iPhone’s water-resistant representations include resistance to “accidental spills” from common liquids such as soda, coffee, beer, tea and fruit juices and instructs users to rinse the affected area of the phone when these spills occur. The case claims, however, that Apple often uses the rinsing of the iPhones “as a pretext to deny coverage” despite explicitly instructing iPhone owners to take that step.
Apple’s attempts to disclaim coverage for water damage is “unconscionable and deceptive,” the lawsuit argues, considering it has marketed its iPhones as water resistant.
Per the case, iPhone owners whose devices have sustained water damage often find themselves at a loss when Apple refuses to repair the products under warranty and end up paying for costly repairs out-of-pocket or buying a new phone, according to the lawsuit.
Who Does the Lawsuit Aim to Cover?
The case looks to cover New York residents who, during the applicable statutes of limitations, purchased Apple iPhones purporting to be capable of sustaining limited contact or immersion in water for a finite period of time.
How Do I Join the Lawsuit?
There’s usually nothing you need to do to join a class action lawsuit when it’s first filed. If the lawsuit moves forward and settles, which could take months or even years, that’s when those affected would be given an opportunity to claim whatever compensation the court deems appropriate. Find out more about the process here.
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