Apple Tells Senators Battery Reimbursement Still in Consideration

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By Michaela Ross

Apple Inc. said it will continue to explore possibly reimbursing customers who bought full-price iPhone batteries, but stopped short of guaranteeing the refund.

“We are exploring this and will update you accordingly,” the iPhone maker said in a Feb. 2 letter to Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.).

The letter, released Feb. 6 by the committee, was a response to a set of questions Thune sent on Jan. 9, asking the company about its reimbursement plans and customer service following a revelation that it had deliberately slowed some older iPhone models’ performance.

Apple faced a wave of consumer complaints in December after acknowledging it had slowed some models, such as the iPhone 6 and 7, through a software update to prevent unexpected shutdowns of weakened batteries. The company’s admission stoked long-held speculation that Apple slows its devices to drive sales of new models.

Apple soon began offering replacement batteries at a discount. But some customers purchased them at full price before the discount was in effect.

Federal Eyes on Apple

Apple’s actions weren’t enough to assuage federal officials. Top GOP lawmakers on the House Energy & Commerce Committee sent the company a separate letter in January expressing concern over iPhone throttling.

The U.S. Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission are also investigating whether the company violated securities law in its handling of disclosures about the performance issue, according to a Bloomberg report.

The company is also facing at least 55 lawsuits from customers in the U.S. related to the slowdown, Bloomberg Law data show.

Apple’s letter to Thune mostly outlined its actions that had already been publicly disclosed. It’s offering out-of-warranty replacement batteries for $29 to anyone with an iPhone 6 or later until the end of 2018, regardless of whether they have experienced performance issues. “We are seeing strong demand for it,” the company said.

“As we said publicly, we have never—and would never—do anything to intentionally shorten the life of any Apple product or degrade the user experience to drive customer upgrades,” the company said in the letter.

The company also said its newly announced operating system will let users turn off the software feature that slows performance and check a phone’s battery’s condition. Models older than the iPhone 5S aren’t affected by the same performance issue, it said.

Apple also separately told the Senate committee the company’s initial disclosures about device performance issues “came up short,” Thune said in a statement Feb. 6. The company will continue its discussions with the committee, he said.

“Apple has also promised the committee some follow-up information, including an answer about additional steps it may take to address customers who purchased a new battery at full price,” Thune said.

With assistance from Tom Schoenberg (Bloomberg). Matt Robinson (Bloomberg) and Mark Gurman (Bloomberg)

To contact the reporter on this story: Michaela Ross in Washington at mross@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Roger Yu at ryu@bloomberglaw.com (Bloomberg Law); Jesse Westbrook at jwestbrook1@bloomberg.net (Bloomberg); Winnie O'Kelley at wokelley@bloomberg.net (Bloomberg); Tom Giles at tgiles5@bloomberg.net (Bloomberg); Andrew Pollack (Bloomberg) and Molly Schuetz (Bloomberg).

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