Internet & the Law

There have been many complaints about Apple’s latest iOS9 updates, but one of them is really causing a stir. Wi-Fi Assist is a new software feature that lets iPhones and iPads switch to cellular data when the wi-fi signal is weak.

The new version, for iPhones and iPads, has received many complaints since its release in mid- September. The chief complaint is that the Wi-Fi Assist switches on by default without users’ knowing it, causing them to run up large data bills. They find out about the increased data charges when their cellular bill arrives.

A lawsuit has been filed in California; the Florida couple filing the suit is seeking class-action status. William and Suzanne Phillips say they did not know about the feature, and because of that, Apple should be responsible for paying their bill, as well as the bills of others like them.

Wi-Fi Assist is designed to give you the smoothest experience possible when using the Internet. But, perhaps Apple should have made this known up front to prevent the confusion that is now ongoing. It wasn’t until receiving mixed reactions to the feature that Apple decided in early October to publish an online guide to Wi-Fi Assist.

Not everyone is unhappy with the feature – many are pleased that Wi-Fi Assist allows them to stay online even when the wi-fi signal drops out or is weak. But users who have low-usage data plans are not happy with the extra charges on their cellular bills. And many users feel that the company should have made clear the existence of the feature and how to use it before releasing the latest update.

The lawsuit filed by the Phillips alleges that Apple violated California’s Unfair Competition Law and its False Advertising Law; it also accuses the company of negligent misrepresentation.

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