iPhone Buyers Were Ill-Informed About Battery, Lawyer Argues - InformationWeek

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iPhone Buyers Were Ill-Informed About Battery, Lawyer Argues

In a letter to Steve Jobs, the Consumer Protection Board in New York also sided with consumers who have to mail their iPhone back to Apple to replace the battery for $79, plus a shipping fee.

The lawyer who has filed a class-action lawsuit against Apple and AT&T said Wednesday the companies duped iPhone buyers by failing to disclose how expensive it would be to replace the battery.

Larry Drury filed the suit last week in Circuit Court in Chicago, joining others in accusing Apple of failing to make clear to iPhone buyers how much it would cost to replace the battery. On Monday, the Consumer Protection Board in New York called on Apple to make replacing the battery easier and less expensive.

Drury told InformationWeek that Apple and AT&T, the exclusive service provider, sold the iPhone without fully disclosing the cost over its lifetime. "As a mater of policy and good business practices, they should have disclosed to the public, who is paying a considerable amount of money for this phone, exactly what it was going to cost them at the end of the day," Drury said.

The Consumer Protection Board echoed those allegations, saying in a letter to Apple chief executive Steve Jobs that Apple should "review its practices in disclosing contract terms and conditions, warranties and return policies." Board chairwoman and executive director Mindy A. Bockstein said disclosures on the cost of replacing the battery should be more prominently displayed in Apple stores and online.

"A high-end cell phone shouldn't have to have low-end customer service," Bockstein said.

An Apple spokeswoman told InformationWeek the company does not comment on pending litigation.

At issue is the fact that buying an iPhone, which depending on the model can cost as much as $600, means eventually having to send the device back to Apple to replace the battery for $79, plus a shipping fee of $6.95. For people who can't live without a phone for the three days it would take to repair it, Apple will rent a phone for $29.

The CPB also objected to the iPhone's 14-day trial period offered by Apple, while the AT&T telephone service comes with a 30-day grace period in which a customer can cancel without penalty.

Drury filed the lawsuit on behalf of plaintiff Jose Trujillo, accusing the defendants of "purposeful and fraudulent concealment" of the additional battery costs. "Purchasers should have known before purchasing the phone, so they could have made a reasonable decision," Drury said.

The suit contends that the battery can only be charged 300 times before it needs to be replaced, which for many buyers would mean paying for a new power supply once a year. Apple, however, claims the battery lasts a lot longer, because a charge cycle runs from zero to fully charged. Charging a half-spent battery, for example, would only be half a charge cycle.

The lawsuit does not ask for a specific amount of damages, but says the companies should be ordered to pay actual, compensatory, and punitive damages, as well as attorney fees and costs.

In June, The Foundation For Taxpayer and Consumer Rights also objected to the battery replacement policy and called on Apple and AT&T to offer free batteries for the life of the iPhone. The group also objected to AT&T's $175 cancellation fee for early termination of the service.

In releasing quarterly earnings last month, Apple said it expected to sell a million iPhones by the end of the current quarter, and 10 million within the first 12 months. The combination phone, media player, and handheld computer went on sale on June 29.

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