Apple faces class action lawsuit over Wi-Fi Assist data usage

“Apple is facing a $5m lawsuit over a feature in the new version of iOS which uses mobile data when Wi-Fi connectivity is weak,” Alex Hern reports for The Guardian.

“The feature, named ‘Wi-Fi assist,’ senses when there are problems with the wireless network the phone is connected to, and instead routes the device over mobile data,” Hern reports. “Controversially, the feature is enabled by default in the latest version of Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS 9, and it isn’t always clear when it is active (the only explicit acknowledgement is that the Wi-Fi logo in the top-right of the phone’s screen becomes greyed out). As a result, users have reported accidentally running up large bills for mobile-data usage when they used their phones while believing they were on their home Wi-Fi.”

Read more in the full article here.

“In the complaint, plaintiffs William Scott Phillips and Suzanne Schmidt Phillips allege that because of costs related to Wi-Fi Assist, the ‘overall amount in controversy exceeds’ $5 million,” Neil Hughes reports for AppleInsider. “Filed in a U.S. District Court in San Jose on Friday, the suit was first discovered by AppleInsider.”

“Some who don’t understand how Wi-Fi Assist works, or even that it exists, have alleged that the new feature has caused them to use more cellular data than anticipated,” Hughes reports. “But the new class-action suit alleges it should be Apple who should reimburse customers for any overages.”

Hughes reports, “The complaint asserts that Apple did not properly explain Wi-Fi Assist on its website until only after a ‘flood of articles’ were written about unintended cellular data use. For the plaintiffs, that addition to the website was too little, too late.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Note: To shut off Wi-Fi Assist in iOS 9: Settings>Cellular, toggle Wi-Fi Assist off.

24 Comments

  1. To add to MDN’s take, once you get on the Cellular page in Settings, you have to scroll down and scroll down and scroll down to get to the setting, below the list of all your apps which want to also eat your cellular data. Just keep scrolling down, you’ll find it eventually.

  2. I find it hard to believe that someone was sitting in crappy wi-fi long enough to have wi-fi assist create a significant data overage.. Most if not all services provide free text or emails warning users of impending overages.. This is just another useless lawsuit to waste everyone’s time

    1. I’m not sure how Apple’s implementation works but the “Sprint Connection Optimizer” which did exactly the same thing didn’t switch you back to wifi after you got a better signal. You had to switch back manually..

  3. Keep your eye on the wifi icon in the top left corner, or suffer.

    Make sure that data resource hogs like YouTube or Netflix has cellular data turned off, or suffer.

    Wifi assist works great if used with intelligence. However, there’s a lot of people that aren’t the sharpest cheese on the cracker. This is why Apple should have had wifi assist turned off by default. Stupid people tend to part with their money easier. Why piss them off?

    1. Stupid are the people that make assumptions about the average users and expect them constantly to obsess over tiny wifi icons.
      This is typical Stupid apple, pushing a mass update and enabling a new feature that is so obviously going to be glossed over by most of their users. This is bad release management by Apple, and typical.

    1. Then you should have been prompted to turn it on the first time your iPhone deemed it necessary. It was idiotic of Apple to add a new feature like this and have it on by default.

  4. I help a friend the rare times she has issues with her iPhone 5c. I almost fell off my chair last week when I saw her cell data usage (as recorded in Settings > Cellular) was almost 25 GB since she reset the stats a month ago. She has a 2 GB plan and has never gone over before now. The carrier she’s with is known for poor customer service so it’s no surprise she got no text warnings.

    I disabled wifi assist for her post-haste. This is ridiculous: Apple pushes iOS9 to phones and keeps nagging the user to update, knowing full well only a minority read the release notes.

    And don’t get all huffy about it being the user’s fault; though technically true, wifi assist is mentioned once in a single line buried under “Other improvements”. I’m betting no more than 2% of users actually read the whole thing on their phone screens.

    Worse, it’s worded ambiguously: “Wi-Fi Assist to automatically use cellular data when Wi-Fi connectivity is poor”. Normal users simply have no clue what the implication is. Hell, *technical* people could easily misread that to mean it switches to cellular when wifi signal drops to 1 bar, instead of waiting to completely lose the wifi signal like it’s done for ages.

    This was a change with massive cost implications, so a dedicated info screen should have popped up after the upgrade to inform users better and give the option to disable it right then and there. And animate the wifi icon instead of just graying it out; even alternating the icon colour would’ve been better. Not that it would’ve helped when watching videos, since it blacks out the bar and the rest of the screen anyway.

    1. Maybe most of this could have been avoided if the feature generated a pop-up notification stating that it was switching to Cellular data due to weak wifi.. This would have at least warned users that they are eating into their Data pool..

  5. What are the odds that the ‘Philips’ are a couple of lawyers ?

    This is the tech equivalent of ambulance chasing. The real money is the legal fees they seek to persue the case. I bet they couldn’t produce a list of 50 people who feel so financially crippled that they seek legal action to recover their losses. It reminds me of the recent case with the ipod owning ( or not as it turns out ) lawyers who took Apple to court over a downloading issue

    1. I have no doubt, they will have no trouble finding plenty of people to join the class. This is one of the gravest mistakes Apple has made over the past ten years (and that’s the period in which they brought us Mobile.Me and Apple Maps, among other things). Having a new feature such as this, with potential costly consequences, turned on by default, and then not even explain how it works (except in a well-hidden section describing ‘Other improvements’, which literally NOBODY ever reads) is the most unforgivable offense that is completely un-Apple.

      This suit should be quickly settled and the problem quickly resolved (by automatically turning the feature off by default; although this is, for most current users, pointless).

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