We should have probably seen this coming a mile away, especially considering how people love suing Apple for almost every consumer misstep it makes. The latest class action suit filed against it by William Scott Phillips and Suzanne Schmidt Phillips on behalf of all other disgruntled iPhone and iPad users relates to the new Wi-Fi Assist feature added and enabled by default on iOS 9. The feature, which silently uses cellular data when Wi-Fi quality is poor, has allegedly caused the plaintiffs more than $5 million in data charges.
It isn’t exactly new for Apple to implement new features and set defaults without telling users about it first. You could perhaps even consider it Apple’s usability philosophy, to try to make decisions on behalf of the users so they wouldn’t have to. That said, there are perhaps few such instances that would actually cost users no small amount of money if they’re not aware of it.
Wi-Fi Assist was added in iOS 9 to ensure that there is quality Internet connection at all times. If iOS detects that Wi-Fi quality is too poor, it automatically switches to a cellular data connection. Everything happens quietly and smoothly so that the user isn’t even aware that there’s a problem. Depending on your data plan, that could incur some unwanted and unexpected charges.
The lawsuit alleges that Apple violated California’s Unfair Competition Law, its False Advertising Law, and also accuses the company of negligent misrepresentation. Part of the beef was that Apple never even mentioned such a feature. It kept its lips sealed until news sites started talking about it. Only then did the company put up an FAQ about the feature, but, according to the plaintiffs, it was not enough and that the damage has already been done.
How much damage exactly? The lawsuit doesn’t spell out the amount of charges incurred with Wi-Fi Assist, though it mentions that the “overall amount in controversy” goes beyond $5 million. The case was filed Friday in a district court in San Jose. Apple has yet to respond to the lawsuit.