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Apple is a world leader in both design and digital payments, but you wouldn’t know it from the clumsy website where millions of iPhone users must go to claim compensation over a battery defect. The website and the process for notifying customers about the iPhone settlement is awkward and ineffective—in short, very un-Apple like. The situation is frustrating many iPhone owners and could also bring new scrutiny of a class action process that critics’ say shortchanges consumers.
The Apple class action in question is over what the tech press has dubbed “battery-gate.” It alleges that Apple manipulated its software in ways that caused the battery of certain iPhones to suddenly drain or make the phone sluggish, prompting some users to desire a new purchase.
Following a wave of lawsuits, Apple agreed to settle the matter earlier this year. The proposed settlement calls for Apple to compensate those who bought an iPhone 6 or 7 or similar devices from that era.
The document says those who qualify “shall be sent Twenty Five U.S. dollars ($25.00) for each iPhone owned,” but notes the actual amount could be more or less based on many people file claims. The deal states Apple shall pay consumers a minimum of $310 million and a maximum of $500 million.
The financial terms are straightforward but, for consumers who want to collect, the process is not. In a poll of my iPhone-owning coworkers, most had not even seen the email announcing the settlement—likely because it went to spam folders. (If you want to search your own email for it, the subject is “Class Action Notice: In re Apple Inc. Device Performance Litigation.”)
And finding the email was just the beginning. Those who do find it are directed to this settlement page, which requires claimants to enter the serial number of the device in question—a tall order given many no longer have the iPhones they bought four or five years earlier.
The page does a have feature to look up the serial number based on your email and home address. But for some, it claimed there was no match.
Meanwhile, one colleague who attempted to submit her banking details on the site encountered a series of errors and had to switch browsers several times. She ultimately elected for a paper check.
All of this raises the question of why this process is so hard. After all, Apple keeps meticulous records of its customers and likely knows very well who purchased the devices with faulty batteries. Why didn’t the settlement call for Apple to email customers directly, which would have avoid the spam filter problem? Or better yet, why didn’t Apple offer to credit the $25 to the credit cards it keeps on file for most customers?
It’s hard not to conclude the process is clumsy because the lawyers designed it to be this way. A spokesperson …read more