Class Action Lawsuit Over iPhone 7 Audio Chip Defect Narrowed, But Allowed to Proceed
A class action lawsuit accusing Apple of violating consumer laws and breaching its warranties over an alleged iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus audio chip defect has been allowed to proceed, but the case has been narrowed.
U.S. district judge Jon Tigar on Thursday denied Apple's motion to dismiss the plaintiffs' claims for breach of implied warranty under California law, violations of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, and unjust enrichment in the form of an alternative remedy. The court granted Apple's motion to dismiss the remaining claims, but the plaintiffs have an opportunity to amend their complaint within 21 days.
Filed in May 2019, the class action lawsuit alleged that "the materials used in the iPhone's external casing are insufficient and inadequate to protect the internal parts," eventually resulting in the audio chip losing electrical contact with the logic board due to "flexion" of the device during regular use.
The defect results in multiple issues on affected devices, ranging from a grayed-out speaker button to customers not being heard during phone calls and FaceTime video chats, according to the complaint.
The initial complaint sought an order that would require Apple to repair, recall, and/or replace the affected iPhones and to extend the warranties of the devices for a reasonable period of time. The plaintiffs also sought damages "likely in the millions of dollars" that would be divided among affected customers.
The class action has been consolidated in Northern California court.
In an internal document obtained by MacRumors in May 2018, Apple acknowledged a microphone issue affecting some iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus models. The memo to Apple Stores and Apple Authorized Service Providers described the same audio issues mentioned in the class action lawsuits.
The alleged defect is commonly referred to as "Audio IC issues" and it is also informally known as "Loop Disease" on the web.
Apple's document said service providers could request a "warranty exception" for affected iPhones, which resulted in free repairs for at least some customers, but that abruptly ended in July 2018 after Apple deleted the document.
Since then, some Apple employees have failed to acknowledge the internal guidelines ever existed, resulting in many customers having to pay an out-of-warranty fee of over $300 in the United States for a fix. Of course, some customers have managed to argue their way to a free repair, but mileage varies.
iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus devices still within Apple's limited one-year warranty period or covered by AppleCare+ remain eligible for a free repair, but the audio chip issues usually take time to manifest, and warranty coverage has lapsed on many of the devices since they were released in September 2016.
MacRumors has repeatedly contacted Apple for comment regarding the audio chip issues, but we have never received a response.
The full order on Apple's motion to dismiss is embedded below.