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Apple sued in Korea over slowing of its iPhones

Jan 13,2018
Legal action against Apple is building up steam in Korea.

The first suit against Apple for slowing down iPhones’ performances was filed Thursday in the Seoul Central District Court by a consumer rights group, Citizens United for Consumer Sovereignty, representing 122 plaintiffs.

Another suit is being prepared by the Hannuri law firm. As of Friday morning, it had more than 380,000 applicants wanting to be plaintiffs. A two-week registration period officially ended Thursday, but the law firm said it decided to take additional applicants.

On Dec. 20, Apple admitted to have intentionally slowed the performance of older iPhone models through iOS upgrades. The phone maker claimed it reduced the processing power of iPhone 6, 6S, SE and 7 models to prevent devices from unexpectedly shutting down due to aging batteries. Customers suspected such actions were intended to increase new iPhone sales by shortening the product’s life cycle.

While class action lawsuits have been filed or prepared in multiple countries including the United States, Israel, France and Australia, Thursday’s suit by a local consumer group marks the beginning of a legal battle between Korean consumers and the U.S. behemoth.

The group sued both Apple headquarters and Apple Korea and demanded 2.2 million won ($2,070) in compensation for each plaintiff.

The demand is the average 1.2 million won spent by customers to replace their phones with the latest iPhone models and an additional 1 million won for the mental suffering Apple brought on, the group said in statement.

“Apple downgraded iPhones’ performances by as much as 30 percent depending on the devices’ battery through iOS updates,” a spokesperson for the group said. “But the company did not notify customers that software updates could slow down device performances and that battery performance can greatly deteriorate after some time.”

The group is also considering filing a criminal complaint for damage to customers’ property or fraud.

Hannuri, which will represent a larger number of iPhone owners, is taking a more cautious approach.

According to attorney Cho Kye-chang, the firm is currently weighing its options on whether to file a suit in a U.S. or Korean court.

“We are discussing on our best options with leading law firms in the U.S. as well as firms that already filed class action lawsuits against Apple,” Cho said. “We will consider various options through January and will likely take action in the coming month.”

There are a number of differences when filing lawsuits in Korea and the U.S.

Unlike in the United States, class action lawsuits are not available in Korea except in the financial sector, so victims must actually participate as plaintiffs to benefit from the case.

Also, plaintiffs cannot ask for punitive damages in a Korean court. This means they can only ask for compensation for the actual damages caused by the defendant.


BY KIM JEE-HEE [kim.jeehee@joongang.co.kr]


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