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iPhone users sue Apple over Wi-Fi feature that gobbles cell data

October 23, 2015, 9:52 PM UTC
Apple Starts iPhone 6 Sales In Germany
BERLIN, GERMANY - SEPTEMBER 19: A shopper ltries out the new Apple iPhone 6 at the Apple Store on the first day of sales of the new phone in Germany on September 19, 2014 in Berlin, Germany. Hundreds of people had waited in a line that went around the block through the night in order to be among the first people to buy the new smartphone, which comes in two versions: the Apple iPhone 6 and the somewhat larger Apple iPhone 6 Plus. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
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A Florida couple filed a class action lawsuit against Apple on Friday, claiming a new “Wi-Fi Assist” feature can lead users to inadvertently blow through their data plan and rack up extra charges.

The Wi-Fi Assist feature arrived as part of Apple’s (AAPL) new iOS 9 operating system, and is intended to help users when Wi-Fi coverage is weak by automatically switching on cell service to supplement it.

This sounds helpful enough. The trouble, however, is that many users lack unlimited data plans, and have been aghast to discover that their data usage was spiking.

The lawsuit cites a recent Fortune story to explain the problem. As the story said: “If you don’t have an unlimited data plan, this could be a big problem when your next phone bill arrives. That’s right, extra fees.”

The lawsuit also cites tweets like the one below to refute Apple’s alleged attempt to downplay its failure to tell consumers that Wi-Fi Assist was turned on:

Now, the couple who filed the lawsuit, William and Suzanne Phillips, are asking Apple to pay at least $5 million to compensate everyone affected by the problem, and for a judge to order Apple to change the way it offers WiFi Assist. (The $5 million is a somewhat arbitrary number that plaintiffs invoke to get into federal court. The actual damages – if any – are anyone’s guess).

Apple declined to comment on the lawsuit. Last week, the company published an “About Wi-Fi Assist” page to explain the tool.

The lawsuit claims the company’s failure to disclose the new WiFi boost setting was unfair and deceptive under California law, and that it amounted to negligent misrepresentation. And in a third, and perhaps unlikely claim, the couple says Apple violated a law against false advertising.

You can read the claims, spotted by Re/Code, for yourself below. I’ve underlined some of the relevant bits:

Apple WiFi Assist Lawsuit