Apple sued over iPhone warranty issues and water resistance claims

in iPhone
Apple is being sued in New York in an attempted class-action complaint over water resistance, with the claim it misrepresented how resistant to liquid the iPhone is in its marketing.

Like many smartphone manufacturers, Apple includes a level of water resistance in its iPhone lineup, with the claimed level of resistance increasing in recent years. There have also been stories where iPhones dropped in lakes are retrieved months later in working order, even without any extra water protection.

However, a lawsuit filed on Saturday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York claims Apple is overstating the water-resistive capabilities of its hardware.

Listed as a "class action complaint" and with Antoinette Smith listed as the plaintiff "on behalf of all others similarly situated," the 13-page filing takes aim at Apple's references to water resistance. For example, the iPhone 7 was marketed as having "IP67" protection, offering maximum water resistance to a depth of 1 meter (3.3 feet) for up to 30 minutes.

For the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max, Apple labels them as rated to IP68, but with an enhanced claim of surviving depths of up to 4 meters (13.1 feet) for up to 30 minutes. The iPhone 12 pushes the claim even further, at 6 meters (19.7 feet) for half an hour.

However, the lawsuit points out these are "insufficiently qualified by fine print disclaimers," with certification levels based on lab tests with static and pure water, unlike pool or sea water. "This means that consumers who stand at the edge of a pool or ocean and whose devices are splashed or temporarily immersed, will be denied coverage, because the water contained chlorine or salt," the suit reads.

Furthermore, the warranty is said not to cover damage caused by liquids, usually signified by a liquid contact indicator turning red.

The suit says Apple's suggestion to rinse areas of an iPhone that have been in contact with common liquids, like juices or coffee, could introduce liquid in ways that could turn the indicator red. It is alleged that this activity can be used to deny warranty coverage.

In the case of plaintiff Smith, who is described as a citizen of Bronx County, she is said to have bought the iPhone 8, which experienced contact with water "consistent with the IP rating of her device and consistent with how the water-resistant attributes were presented in the marketing and advertising of the device."

On trying to get the iPhone fixed by Apple, the company denied warranty coverage for the liquid damage. This forced Smith to "incur financial loss through repair costs, decreased functionality, a lower re-sale value, and/or purchase of a new device."

It is claimed that the plaintiff wouldn't have bought the iPhone "in the absence of Defendant's misrepresentations and omissions," and also wouldn't have paid as much under the same situation. However, Smith still plans to purchase another iPhone, if she is assured that the water-resistance claims are consistent with "typical everyday usage of smartphone users, instead of based on controlled laboratory conditions."

The suit claims its class consists of all iPhone buyers who live in the state of New York, with Apple allegedly breaching New York General Business Law's Consumer Protection Statute.

In demanding a jury trial, the suit's prayer for relief demands preliminary and injunctive relief by forcing Apple to correct its marketing, injunctive relief for restitution of class embers, monetary damages, costs and expenses to attorneys and experts, and any other relief granted by the court.

This is not the first time Apple's water-resistance claims have come under fire.

In November 2020, the Italian Antitrust Authority fined Apple 10 million euro ($12 million) over claims it misled consumers by boasting of water resistance, yet refusing warranty coverage for liquid damage.

The fine is referenced in the lawsuit as evidence that Apple received complaints "by regulators, competitors, and consumers, to its main offices over the past several years" of the issue, making Apple aware that there's a problem to fix.


  • Reply 1 of 15
    You really have a bad look when you advertise your level of water resistance but deny virtually every claim where the water sensors are red. Even worse is humidity can cause the change. 
  • Reply 2 of 15
    ivanhivanh Posts: 597member
    only US? What about users in other countries!
  • Reply 3 of 15
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 3,929member
    I can see both sides on this - if apple advertises a certain level of water resistance then it should honor warranties. Conversely, how do you tell if someone took it deeper than designed or for longer? 

    As far as the testing conditions, I see nothing wrong with that - it’s the only way to practically certify and compare different devices.
  • Reply 4 of 15
    You really have a bad look when you advertise your level of water resistance but deny virtually every claim where the water sensors are red. Even worse is humidity can cause the change. 
    You mean like Samsung does/did?

    I think it was a bad move industry wide to talk about water resistance with smartphones. There are way to many variables. 
    That’s why some people have used them underwater and never had issues and others just got splashed and poof, liquid damage!

    The IP ratings read like tax code. You can or can’t have any current depending on which rating you have, which to me is too broad for the average consumer. Do you consider water current any time you look at liquids? Whether it’s a pool, or lake, or the beach, or at a bar/restaurant and you have your device on the bar/table. 

    iPhones have gotten better with liquids, but I still don’t think their advertising explains clearly what will and what will not fall under its water resistance designation. Plus there isn’t a smartphone manufacturer that will cover liquid damage in its own limited warranty. So why fucking bring it up?
  • Reply 5 of 15
    entropysentropys Posts: 4,166member
    I don’t know how you could prove the water immersion was consistent with the rating, and besides, the IP ratings are pretty well known and clear.  It stuff like this which have ensured I have steered my children away from a career in law (or politics), as I want them to be decent people.
  • Reply 6 of 15
    Here’s a tip. Keep your phone away from water. If you must use around water get a proper waterproof case with a lanyard and a giant floatation device. 
    I know what he packaging says but seriously it’s an expensive electronic device look after it. 
  • Reply 7 of 15
    wood1208wood1208 Posts: 2,913member
    Water resistance means accidentally if gets wet say in rain or fall in water than it is protected unlike previous iphones/phones where there was no such protection. If some scuba driver takes iPhone with him/her for an hour than who to blame for water damage ?
  • Reply 8 of 15
    rcfarcfa Posts: 1,124member
    Water isn’t salt water, nor a random other watery in appearance or partially water liquid.
    Otherwise submersion in hydrochloric acid would be covered, too 🤦🏻‍♂️
  • Reply 9 of 15
    dewmedewme Posts: 5,368member
    Wait a minute, they are claiming that advertising is somewhat misleading, embellished, or exaggerated? I’m shocked, I thought it was all real, that’s the only reason I’ve been stocking up on Old Milwaukee for all these years, you know, waiting for the Swedish Bikini Team to arrive. Heartbroken. 
  • Reply 10 of 15
    mike1mike1 Posts: 3,286member
    Yet there are innumerable examples of phones being submerged for days, weeks and months that work fine.
  • Reply 11 of 15
    baconstangbaconstang Posts: 1,107member
    I've carried a personal communication device in my pocket for 36 years.  
    Never had a problem.  I have managed to not drop it in the toilet, bath or pool.
    Good thing these people don't have kids...    Wait!  What???

  • Reply 12 of 15
    sdw2001sdw2001 Posts: 18,016member
    They advertise water resistance to a certain widely-accepted standard.  Unless they can show that the phones routinely fail to meet those claims, I don't see how this goes anywhere.  They are suing over the fine print?  I guess they want the part that basically says "salt water is more corrosive and may cause damage faster" in bigger font or something?  Maybe the part that says "putting your phone in bleach is not the same as putting in water" should be in red font.      

    I've had iPhones since 2008.  I had temporary water/moisture issues precisely one time while at the beach, about a year ago (a XS Max).  I think I put my phone in my swimsuit pocket while it was damp.  The combo of that and the salt air/high humidity caused touch response/digitizer issues for a few days.  I'd get random apps opening, scrolling, switching, etc.  It resolved in a few days.  I literally took my iPhone 7S in the pool once time and it was completely fine (without a case).  My phone gets wet all the time and I never have an issue.  I'm sure other have been less lucky, but proving Apple's claims are deceptive on the whole is a stretch.  I do think Apple should honor warranties for liquid damage unless they can determine the device was used in a way beyond its IP rating.  
  • Reply 13 of 15
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 3,929member
    For all those saying “well just take care of your phone and don’t get it wet, stupid,” how do you reconcile your positions with Apple’s advertisements of IPxx water resistance ratings? 

  • Reply 14 of 15
    davidwdavidw Posts: 2,053member
    MplsP said:
    For all those saying “well just take care of your phone and don’t get it wet, stupid,” how do you reconcile your positions with Apple’s advertisements of IPxx water resistance ratings? 

    The IPxx rating is an international standard. Apple do not set the standard. The testing is standardized. An IPxx rating on an iPhone means exactly the same  as on a Samsung phone, with the same rating. The test involves fresh water and do not include "dropping" the phone in from any distance. The test involves submerging a phone into fresh water at a certain temperature, to a certain depth and for a certain amount of time. The water is not moving. If no water gets in, then the phone can be said to have that IPxx rating. Plus the phone is new. The phone is not used and maybe have a bent or warped frame, thus comprising a seal.  

    I have no problem with Apple and their IPxx rating. I have no doubt that Apple iPhones will past the IPxx test that their devices are rated for, when new or in new condition.  Otherwise they would lose this or any suit if their devices do not pass the test that their IPxx rated for, when in new condition. All the proof needed would be to submerge a new iPhone into fresh water to the IPxx rated depth and time and it didn't seal the water out. 

    IPxx rating do not mean you can drop the phone into an ocean wave at the beach and it will survive, even if the phone never reached the depth or time of the rating. The same for dropping it into a flushing toilet or a bathtub of hot soapy water. Or into a shallow puddle of water on the sidewalk, when jogging. Or left in a pocket of a pair of pants that went through a washing machine. Or in your swim trucks while water skiing. Or a pot of boiling water for coffee or tea. 

    But here's where the rating do apply. If your phone was sitting on a table and you spilled a glass of water on it. Or your phone was in your sweat shirt pocket and all your clothes got drenched in a rainstorm when going from your car to your front door. Or you left your phone out in the rain on your patio table. Or your kids hit you with a water balloon. Or you dropped into a kiddie pool while taking photos of your two year old.  Or your team pour a bucket of ice water on you in celebration of your 100th win as a coach, while you were still holding the iPad you use for coaching. Even these kind of incident are not tested for any IPxx rating. The rating and test are standards and for comparison. A phone with a higher IPxx rating has a better chance of surviving an accident involving water, than one with a lower IPxx rating. If the IPxx rating were not standardized, it would be useless. 
    edited April 2021 watto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 15
    PezaPeza Posts: 198member
    These water resistant levels are designed to survive what happens to phones, rain, spilt liquids over them like alcohol or water and being dropped in the toilet or bath. If Apple is refusing warranty claims for these accidents then it’s a clear breach of advertising standards and is deliberately misleading consumers, hence the Italian fine. Because any of these accidents are well within the ‘claimed’ water resistance level the Apple advertises the iPhones as having.
    if you bought an expensive watch that was advertised as water resistant to 100 meters, and spilt a glass of water on it and it got inside the watch, but the maker refused to repair it u dear warranty your claim false advertising and the company misleading consumers. 

    We need all the facts of what warranties Apple is refusing, but looking at the Italian fine I’d say Apple is becoming quite the bad company for legitimate warranty claims, some would argue driven to drive more sales and profit, like battery gate as it was Apples very own in store diagnostics software that told people their was nothing wrong with their batteries, leading sales staff to promote new iPhone sales instead of a simple repair.
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