Mass lawsuit against Apple over iPhone batteries can go ahead, London tribunal rules

LONDON (Reuters) -Apple Inc on Wednesday lost a bid to block a mass London lawsuit worth up to $2 billion which accuses the tech giant of hiding defective batteries in millions of iPhones.

The lawsuit was brought by British consumer champion Justin Gutmann on behalf of around 24 million iPhone users in the United Kingdom.

Gutmann is seeking damages from Apple on their behalf of up to 1.6 billion pounds ($1.9 billion) plus interest, with the claim’s midpoint range being 853 million pounds.

His lawyers argued Apple concealed issues with batteries in certain phone models by “throttling” them with software updates and installed a power management tool which limited performance.

Apple, however, said the lawsuit was “baseless” and strongly denied batteries in iPhones were defective, apart from in a small number of iPhone 6s models for which it offered free battery replacements.

The company sought to get the case thrown out of court, but the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) said Gutmann’s case can proceed in a written ruling on Wednesday.

The CAT did, however, say there was “a lack of clarity and specificity” in Gutmann’s case which needed to be resolved before any trial.

It also said Gutmann’s litigation funding arrangements may need to be changed, following a landmark Supreme Court ruling in July which said many such agreements were unlawful.

Gutmann said in a statement that the ruling was “a major step towards consumer justice”.

An Apple spokesperson referred to a previous statement, which said: “We have never – and would never – do anything to intentionally shorten the life of any Apple product, or degrade the user experience to drive customer upgrades.”

The certification of Gutmann’s case adds to the number of high-value mass lawsuits currently being brought in London, following a July decision to give the go-ahead to claims against major banks for alleged foreign exchange rigging.

($1 = 0.8229 pounds)

(Reporting by Sam Tobin; Editing by Sachin Ravikumar and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)