Ever an attractive target, Apple this past Friday was hit with a class action lawsuit over the Wi-Fi Assist feature it introduced in iOS 9. The feature, if you recall, is designed to help users maintain strong connectivity to the Internet by automatically switching to cellular data when a Wi-Fi signal becomes weak.
While this sounds like a clever idea in theory, some users were quick to notice that their devices began consuming huge amounts of data via cellular, resulting in frustrating overage charges in certain cases. Adding to the frustration is that Wi-Fi Assist is turned on by default in iOS 9 .
And so, we have a lawsuit on our hands.
Filed by plaintiffs William Scott Phillips and Suzanne Schmidt Phillips, the complaint (originally spotted by AppleInsider) alleges that Apple did not take timely action to inform the public about the potential for unforeseen overage charges until after user concerns about the issue began sprouting up in Apple support forums online.
Apple, you might recall, did address the issue about a week ago when it issued a support document assuring users that Wi-Fi Assist will not automatically switch to cellular when a device is roaming. Apple further assured users that the feature will only work on apps running in the foreground and that it’s not designed to work with all third-party apps, especially ones that stream audio or video.
Nonetheless, the plaintiffs found Apple’s response to be too little too late, while also adding that Apple’s stance on the matter “downplays” the extent to which users might be affected by overage charges.
The complaint reads in part:
Defendant’s above corrective action, however, still downplays the possible data overcharges a user could incur. Reasonable and average consumers use their iPhones for streaming of music, videos, and running various applications — all of which can use significant data. Defendant’s corrective statement does not disclose any basis for its conclusion that an average consumer would not see much increase in cellular usage.
The plaintiffs claim that damages in this case may exceed $5 million, though the suit doesn’t specifically disclose the extent of their own overage charges.
Incidentally, if you’d like to turn off Wi-Fi Assist, go to Settings > Cellular, and then scroll all the way down to the bottom and switch it off.