Statement: $500M settlement for Apple’s “BatteryGate” underscores need for Right to Repair

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On Friday, Feb. 28, Apple agreed to settle a class action lawsuit over “BatteryGate” for up to $500 million.   

What is BatteryGate? In December 2017, at the height of the holiday shopping season, Apple users discovered that the company had issued a software update that throttled phones’ processors if the phone detected the battery was worn down, as is commonly the case in older phones — without alerting users to the need for battery service. Consumers outraged by Apple’s decision to throttle phones and lack of disclosure launched a class action lawsuit. 

In response to the settlement, U.S. PIRG Right to Repair campaign director Nathan Proctor issued the following statement: 

“BatteryGate is a perfect example of why we need Right to Repair reforms. When users discovered that a $30 battery repair would fix their slow, buggy phones, they flocked to get phones fixed. But Apple didn’t have enough capacity to fix all these phones right away, and huge waitlists formed

“Manufacturer-only repair is a fragile, pricey and wasteful system. There aren’t enough ‘authorized’ technicians to handle the volume of our phone repairs. While a simple fix could keep devices working, saving consumers money and keeping toxic chemicals out of our waste stream, the lack of repair options pushes consumers into buying new phones instead. 

“I hope Apple learns this $500 million lesson. Don’t slow down our phones, let us fix them.”

In the weeks after the news of the phone throttling became public, U.S. PIRG surveyed 164 independent repair businesses. They reported a cumulative 37 percent increase in weekly battery replacement service requests in the month after the throttling news broke. Self-repair interest surged as well –  online traffic seeking iPhone battery repair instructions on went up 153 percent between Dec. 20, 2017 and Jan. 22, 2018. 

Our report highlighted that people want repair options outside the manufacturer. Even though Apple was offering a low-cost battery replacement plan in light of the scandal, iPhone owners still flocked to independent technicians for battery replacements — even though Apple will not sell their original batteries to independent shops. The latest iPhones will now show a service warning to users, and no longer display battery health information, if the phone has it’s battery replaced outside of an Apple authorized store.