Apple faces lawsuits in South Korea for slowing down iPhones

Amid ongoing legal action, experts say the lawsuits may not directly impact iPhone sales in the country, or Apple's market share.
Amid ongoing legal action, experts say the lawsuits may not directly impact iPhone sales in the country, or Apple's market share. PHOTO: REUTERS

SEOUL (THE KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Apple faces multiple lawsuits in South Korea after admitting to slowing down iPhones as the batteries aged.

This is reportedly the first class-action suit in Asia on the issue after iPhone owners filed at least nine class-action lawsuits in the US and Israel.

The latest legal action comes after the US tech giant admitted to slowing down older iPhone models to keep them running at optimal performance and stop the batteries from shutting down.

South Korean law firm Hannuri said on Thursday (Dec 28) it would recruit plaintiffs through its website for two weeks and file a lawsuit against the headquarters of Apple to seek compensation in early February.

"Because Apple made users upgrade their phones without informing them of the side effects, it deceived consumers and violated consumer protection law," said Cho Gye Chang, an attorney who represents the complainants at Hannuri.

Another law firm Hwimyoung has already gathered around 20 victims and is also preparing a similar lawsuit. The firm said it plans to sue Apple Korea for damages in early January in Seoul Central District Court. The litigation cost is around 500,000 won (S$625) to 1 million won per person.

The South Korean government has also stepped in to look into the issue by asking for an explanation from Apple Korea.

"If Apple intentionally degrades the performance of iPhones, it may cause damages for users. We will look into the issue and take action accordingly," a senior government official was quoted as saying by a local media outlet.

However, there are no legal grounds for the government to directly investigate global firms, as they are not subject to regulation under the Telecommunications Business Act.

Amid ongoing legal action, experts say the lawsuits may not directly impact iPhone sales in the country, or Apple's market share.

Apple currently has around 20 per cent share in South Korea, the largest among foreign brands.

"Apple slowing down old models does not matter much to its loyal fans here. They won't easily ditch the premium brand image of Apple and the iOS they already feel comfortable with," said Seo Ki Man, an analyst at LG Economic Research Institute.

Meanwhile, Apple stood as the world's most profitable smartphone maker around the globe in the third quarter of 2017, according to industry tracker Counterpoint.

The firm accounted for a whopping 59.8 per cent of the combined profit generated from the global smartphone industry over the cited period, followed by Samsung Electronics with 25.9 per cent.