Apple sued for $5 million over data-draining Wi-Fi Assist in iOS 9

Class action suit aims to make Apple pay for surprise data overages

Apple iOS 9

The recent iOS 9 update for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch has been widely well received, thanks to myriad upgrades for performance and productivity, but one feature has been a misfire: Wi-Fi Assist.

The controversial addition, which is turned on by default, automatically switches from Wi-Fi to cellular data when your network connection is weak. That's a great idea if speed and reliability are your only concerns, but what about that extra, unexpected data usage? We issued a warning right after iOS 9's release, but not everyone got the memo in time to avoid running up their data allowances.

On Friday, plaintiffs William and Suzanne Phillips filed a class-action lawsuit in California alleging that Apple didn't explain the feature to users on its website until expensive data overages took place, and that even the issued support guide didn't properly disclose how much extra data could be used. The plaintiffs believe the company should be forced to cover any expenses resulting from Wi-Fi Assist.

"Reasonable and average consumers use their iPhones for streaming of music, videos, and running various applications - all of which can use significant data," reads the suit. "Defendant's corrective statement does not disclose any basis for its conclusion that an average consumer would not see much increase in cellular usage."

According to AppleInsider, Apple is accused of negligent misrepresentation, as well as violating California's Unfair Competition and False Advertising laws. The suit seeks at least US$5 million in compensation for all affected users, and if it goes forward, other users may be able to claim a certain amount of damages based on their own purportedly related overages.

Apple hasn't commented on the suit, and even if it goes forward and is eventually settled, it could be years before anyone sees what is likely to be a very small payment; lawyers' fees will eat up much of any settlement. What can you do now? Turn off Wi-Fi Assist if you're worried about using additional data - or be extra vigilant about watching your usage.

[Source: AppleInsider]