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Apple faces $5m lawsuit over Wi-Fi assist data charges

While Apple's Wi-Fi Assist feature ensures the best speed and reliability, it also means that users could incur unexpected cellular data costs

A Californian couple has filed a class-action lawsuit against Apple for failing to explain the cost implication of the Wi-Fi Assist feature introduced in iOS 9.

The feature, which is turned on by default, automatically switches from Wi-Fi to cellular data when the network connection is weak.

While the feature ensures the best speed and reliability, it also means that users could incur unexpected cellular data costs.

According to plaintiffs William and Suzanne Phillips, Apple did not explain the feature until users complained of unexpected bills.

They also claim that the guidance Apple issued did not properly disclose how much extra data could be used.

The plaintiffs believe Apple 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,” the plaintiffs claim.

"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 Apple’s guidance, Wi-Fi users might use more cellular data. “For most users, this should only be a small percentage higher than previous usage,” the guidance states.

The lawsuit accuses Apple of negligent misrepresentation, as well as violating California's Unfair Competition and False Advertising laws, according to Apple Insider.

The suit seeks at least $5m in compensation for all affected users, and if it goes forward, other users may be able to claim damages.

However, some industry pundits said even if the case goes forward and is eventually settled, it could be years before anyone receives compensation, according to PC&Tech Authority.

Anyone concerned about running up unwanted cellular data bills is advised to turn off Wi-Fi Assist.

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