Apple sued over use of moisture indicators to deny free repairs

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2014
A San Francisco resident has filed a lawsuit against Apple alleging that the company unfairly declines warranty coverage for its products solely on the basis of triggered moisture sensors, which the suit alleges are unreliable evidence of abuse.



The suit, filed by Charlene Gallion "on behalf of herself and others similarly situated," details that Apple has progressively expanded upon its original warranty exclusion language for iPhone, starting with wording that excluded coverage for "damage caused by accident, abuse, misuse, flood, fire, earthquake, or their external causes."



Subsequent iPhone warranties have specifically added the phrase "liquid spill or immersion" to the exclusion list, while the latest wording now excludes damage "caused by accident, abuse, neglect, misuse (including faulty installation, repair or maintenance by anyone other than an Apple or an Apple Authorized Service Provider), authorized modification, extreme environment (including extreme temperature or humidity), extreme physical or electrical stress or interference, fluctuation or surges of electrical power, lightning, static electricity, fire, acts of God or other external causes."



Questioning LSI



The suit says Apple's corporate policy "dictates that Apple personnel must refuse warranty coverage to customers who seek a repair or replacement of a Class Device if its external Liquid Submersion Indicator has been triggered."



However, the filing maintains that "in actuality and contrary to what Apple represents to its customers, Apple is aware that external Liquid Submersion Indicators cannot be relied upon to establish with any reasonable degree of certainty that a Class Device has even been exposed (much less damaged by) liquid."



It goes on to claim that independent testing "has demonstrated that Liquid Submersion Indicators can be triggered by, among other things, cold weather and humidity that are within Apple's technical specifications for the Class Devices."



The suit complains that Apple is denying warranty coverage for devices with triggered external Liquid Submersion Indicators without regard to any examination of internal Liquid Submersion Indicator, or any inspection to determine whether there has actually been any damage caused by a liquid spill or submersion.



The plaintiff in the case specifically describes bringing in her non-functional iPhone 3G for service, and being told that she was not eligible for free repair or replacement because a Liquid Submersion Indicator in her phone had been triggered.



She was told she would have to pay $199 for a replacement handset, plus the taxes on its full non-discounted value, and would have to trade in her existing phone to qualify for the discounted replacement. The terms of that replacement policy were enacted last summer.



The plaintiff seeks to bring a class action against Apple, and raises questions of whether "external Liquid Submersion Indicators produce false-positive results," whether they are "designed to produce false-positive results," whether "Apple knew the external Liquid Submersion Indicators produce false-positive results," whether relying on the sensors is "unconscionable," and further claims that Apple may be "subject to liability for common-law fraud," and/or violating a variety of laws related to Liquid Submersion Indicators or the company's other business practices, including its exclusive availability through AT&T in the United States.



From Submersion to Contact



The suit also notes that Apple has started referring to the Liquid Submersion Indicators as Liquid Contact Indicators. Apple began installing the indicators in its notebooks and iPhones in 2008.



In a troubleshooting document written for end users, Apple recommends a sees of steps to try if their iPhone will not power on, followed by the line: "Finally, if the iPhone still will not power on, check to see if the Liquid Contact Indicator (LCI) in the headphone jack or 30-pin connector is activated."



In a support document detailing the moisture sensors on the iPhone and Pod models, Apple says, "iPhone and iPod products are equipped with Liquid Contact Indicators in the bottom of the headphone jack. iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS models also have an indicator on the bottom of the dock-connector housing.These indicators will be activated when they come in direct contact with water or a liquid containing water. They are designed not to be triggered by humidity and temperature changes that are within the product's environmental requirements described by Apple."







The support page adds, "you can tell if the headphone-jack Liquid Contact Indicator has been triggered by looking directly down into the headphone jack. Use a lighted magnifying glass or angle the iPhone or iPod so light shines down into the headphone jack. At the base of the headphone jack, you should see what is normally a white or silver-colored dot. The dot will become full or half red or pink when the dot has come in contact with water or a liquid containing water. To view the dock-connector indicator on iPhone 3G or iPhone 3GS, use a lighted magnifying glass and hold the device so that you can view the center bottom of the dock-connector housing. A full or partial red dot will appear if the indicator has been triggered."



More sophisticated abuse detection circuitry has been patented by Apple for the purpose of collecting information from liquid moisture sensors, thermal sensors, continuity (liquid short) sensors, and physical shock sensors, which would then record an event log that could be used to prevent the company from having to cover damage unrelated to normal part failure or workmanship flaws.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 176
    naboozlenaboozle Posts: 213member
    I took my new iPhone3Gs back because the GPS was flaky. Sure enough, the genius checked for those indicators.



    I'll be interested in seeing how this turns out. I'd like to think the indicators are reliable, as Apple certainly has a right to protect itself from having to reimburse for abused products. I've had my phone colorized, so my warranty is kaput anyway
  • Reply 2 of 176
    easy288easy288 Posts: 80member
    Deny warranty repairs = bigger profits.



    I would like someone to test this indicator in a bathroom after a long hot shower.
  • Reply 3 of 176
    ilogicilogic Posts: 298member
    Good stuff, keep Apple honest!!!
  • Reply 4 of 176
    corbucorbu Posts: 40member
    I agree that Apple deserves to protect themselves. If you drop you're phone in the toilet, you don't deserve a new one on the house. But the headphone Jack? I can't even count the times I've replugged a disconnected and very sweaty headphone cable back into the jack.
  • Reply 5 of 176
    my 3GS has never been anywhere near any water and I just checked and found that my Dock Connector sensor was triggered...and that is a load of crap



    actually most of the time it is in a mophie juice pack air...so the dock connector is rarely open to the elements



    so I call crap because I know mine has never been anywhere near getting wet...so they had better hope to god that I never need to get it serviced under applecare because I will ACT A FOOL in the store until the cops come to remove me from the store...



    I already DETEST the experience in the Apple Store...it is always a mad house and full of insane kids that have no intention to buy anything



    and most of the time the employees don't know anywhere near as much about the products than I do



    hell I can take an iPhone completely apart and put it back together again in a heart beat...so I know my products...whether mac, ipod or iPhone...so they better check them selves
  • Reply 6 of 176
    ghostface147ghostface147 Posts: 1,629member
    I don't mind them trying to stop people from taking advantage of repairs. However there needs to be a way to make false positives as minimal as possible. I am sure something will come up.
  • Reply 7 of 176
    ghostface147ghostface147 Posts: 1,629member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by now4real954 View Post


    so they had better hope to god that I never need to get it serviced under applecare because I will ACT A FOOL in the store until the cops come to remove me from the store...



    So causing a scene and getting detained/arrested will get your phone fixed if you ever have a need to? Some logic you have...
  • Reply 8 of 176
    There's all kinds of way you can trigger an external moisture sensor without causing any damage at all to the device. If they are refusing warranty service based on a superficial examination then they definitely deserve to be sued. The only way to tell for sure would be to open the device and examine internal moisture sensors and there should be several of them. If there isn't then it would be hard to trust them as well.
  • Reply 9 of 176
    The only workmanship flaws they should be concerned with are the ones which aren't making these devices water resistant. You know people are going to drop them and they're going to get wet. It's negligent to put something which so commonly gets dropped or wet out in the market without waterproofing it at least to some degree. This goes for all electronics manufacturers of phones and also applies to things like keyboards and mice which are subject to the same sort of "oops"es that happen to phones
  • Reply 10 of 176
    stonefreestonefree Posts: 242member
    Apple is notorious for ripping people off with out of warranty repairs, especially logic boards, so them trying to weasel out legitimate warranty claims is not surprising. If your Logic board fails they'll charge you $700-1000 for a part they pay $50 and pay a tech $20 an hour for an hour of work to replace. And they seem to have a high rate of failure judging by forum posts. Look for any post asking if you need AppleCare and you'll see all the veteran Mac owners highly recommending it after all the times they've had their Macs fail.
  • Reply 11 of 176
    Apple won't deny a replacement if only 1 LSI is tripped. (something that has recently changed). If one sensor is tripped, then it's possible it's a false positive. Two tripped sensors isn't very likely to be a false positive.
  • Reply 12 of 176
    williamgwilliamg Posts: 322member
    The sensors are well known for providing false positives. It's about time.



    There has been a lot of media about this.
  • Reply 13 of 176
    I don't know really how easy it is to set these off.



    Where I live my phone is exposed to rain often as I use it for my job and often take calls while getting from my car to the building I need to be at.



    I don't have it in a case and so the headphone port and the Dock Connector are constantly exposed to that rain and I just checked and none of the sensors have gone off. My phone has been drenched at one stage from rain and yet it works perfectly fine.



    I think because the iPhone has survived me all this time then it is a very sturdy phone.
  • Reply 14 of 176
    williamgwilliamg Posts: 322member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by mariofreak85 View Post


    Apple won't deny a replacement if only 1 LSI is tripped. (something that has recently changed). If one sensor is tripped, then it's possible it's a false positive. Two tripped sensors isn't very likely to be a false positive.



    How do you know? On what do you base your opinion?
  • Reply 15 of 176
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by ghostface147 View Post


    so causing a scene and getting detained/arrested will get your phone fixed if you ever have a need to? Some logic you have...







    i would act like a foold and make a sence ! No way am i getting ripped off etc
  • Reply 16 of 176
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by now4real954 View Post


    my 3GS has never been anywhere near any water and I just checked and found that my Dock Connector sensor was triggered...and that is a load of crap



    actually most of the time it is in a mophie juice pack air...so the dock connector is rarely open to the elements



    so I call crap because I know mine has never been anywhere near getting wet...so they had better hope to god that I never need to get it serviced under applecare because I will ACT A FOOL in the store until the cops come to remove me from the store...



    I already DETEST the experience in the Apple Store...it is always a mad house and full of insane kids that have no intention to buy anything



    and most of the time the employees don't know anywhere near as much about the products than I do



    hell I can take an iPhone completely apart and put it back together again in a heart beat...so I know my products...whether mac, ipod or iPhone...so they better check them selves





    fully agree with u ! and i wuld do the same !
  • Reply 17 of 176
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by WilliamG View Post


    How do you know? On what do you base your opinion?



    My roommate is a genius at an apple store.
  • Reply 18 of 176
    psych_guypsych_guy Posts: 451member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by now4real954 View Post


    I already DETEST the experience in the Apple Store...it is always a mad house and full of insane kids that have no intention to buy anything



    and most of the time the employees don't know anywhere near as much about the products than I do



    hell I can take an iPhone completely apart and put it back together again in a heart beat...so I know my products...whether mac, ipod or iPhone...so they better check them selves



    Jeez, who pissed in your cornflakes this morning (don't say Apple)?
  • Reply 19 of 176
    milkmagemilkmage Posts: 152member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by jeffreytgilbert View Post


    The only workmanship flaws they should be concerned with are the ones which aren't making these devices water resistant. You know people are going to drop them and they're going to get wet. It's negligent to put something which so commonly gets dropped or wet out in the market without waterproofing it at least to some degree. This goes for all electronics manufacturers of phones and also applies to things like keyboards and mice which are subject to the same sort of "oops"es that happen to phones



    well I also know that if I drop a glass it's going to break. does that entitle me to a new one.. or is it my responsibility not to drop it? or perhaps the glass manufacturers should make their glasses drop resistant... I'm sure glass manufacturers are aware that their products will be dropped from time to time, but they take no measures to prevent me from doing so.



    are you saying that if I "oops" spill a mug of coffee on my keyboard and it dies, I'm entitled to a new one.. the keyboard manufactures KNOW that's gong to happen too.
  • Reply 20 of 176
    john.bjohn.b Posts: 2,714member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by now4real954 View Post


    I already DETEST the experience in the Apple Store...it is always a mad house and full of insane kids that have no intention to buy anything



    "You darned kids, get off my lawn!"



    LOL!
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