Wi-Fi Assist leads to lawsuit over data usage

Wi-Fi Assist leads to lawsuit over data usage

Customers with limited data plans are seeing overage charges due to iPhone switching to cellular data automatically, according to the lawsuit.

A new feature in Apple’s iOS software that was meant to be an assist to iPhone users has resulted in charges for data overruns for some people, and at least one user has filed a lawsuit against the company, according to cnet.com.

William Scott Phillips and Suzanne Schmidt Phillips of Edgewater, Florida, say they were not aware of the feature that automatically switches to cellular data whenever the Wi-Fi connection is deemed to be weak.  The couple contends that since the feature was turned on by default, they ran up large bills with their carrier for data over-usage while thinking they were using Wi-Fi, and that Apple should be responsible for the extra costs for them and other users in the same situation as well.

They are seeking class action status for their lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in San Jose, California, saying the charges for data overuse for everyone affected is over $5 million.

The idea behind the feature was to give consumers a smoother and more consistent internet experience, by using more powerful cellular data when Wi-Fi was weak and unreliable.  And many users are happy with the feature.  However, those with small data plans through their providers are finding the feature is causing them to over run their limited data allowance rather quickly, and is resulting in unexpected charges on their bill.

Apple published an online guide to Wi-Fi Assist in October due to mixed reactions from their customers about the feature.  In the guide, the company said, “Because you’ll stay connected to the Internet over cellular when you have a poor Wi-Fi connection, you might use more cellular data.”   For most users, this should only be a small percentage higher than previous usage.”

The couple says they only found out about the feature after reading articles about the possibility of extra charges on the internet and through tweets about Wi-Fi Assist.

The lawsuit alleges that Apple violated California’s Unfair Competition Law and its False Advertising Law, and accused the company of negligent misrepresentation.  Other Smartphone manufacturers have similar features on their phones, but only Apple is currently being subjected to a legal complaint.

Those wishing to disable the feature on their phones can go to “Settings”, “Cellular” or “Mobile Data” and scroll to the bottom and turn the feature off with a toggle button.

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