'iOS 9 ate my mobile broadband plan'

Default-on Wi-Fi Assist accused of burning through people's monthly download limits

Apple is being sued over an iOS 9 feature that allegedly gobbled its way through people's monthly mobile data plans.

The class-action legal challenge [PDF], filed on Friday in the US District Court in San Jose, California, alleges that Apple enabled by default a connection-boosting feature called Wi-Fi Assist that resulted in users burning through their mobile plans.

Activated by default in iOS 9, Wi-Fi Assist will detect when a Wi-Fi signal has poor strength and automatically switch over to the handset's LTE wireless broadband connection.

The feature is meant to prevent connection and stream interruptions, but some people claim it has also resulted in LTE connections being activated for large data transmissions without notice or approval, and crashing through monthly download limits in the process.

In other words, if you're at home binge-watching TV from the internet on your iPhone, Wi-Fi Assist may run the connection through your mobile broadband rather than Wi-Fi to your home broadband. And if that happens, the streaming could end up consuming all your monthly mobile data limit, which could be, say, 5GB over 4G.

"Defendant failed to disclose to consumers that this automatic switch to cellular data caused by an activated Wi-Fi Assist (the default setting) may result in exceeding the data capacity allowed under their phone plans," the suit claims.

"This is especially true as there is no warning or disclosure when the phone switches from Wi-Fi to cellular data."

The big problem, the suit alleges, is that Wi-Fi Assist is turned on by default in iOS 9. This, they say, means folks are never warned or asked to give permission for a feature that can result in their mobile bills being packed with additional data charges without their knowledge or consent.

"It was not until after the flood of articles, comments, and complaints online that Apple issued a statement on October 2, 2015 on Wi-Fi Assist, including how it works and that the default setting is activated," the suit reads.

"Defendant's above corrective action, however, still downplays the possible data overcharges a user could incur. Reasonable and average consumers use their iPhones for streaming of music, videos, and running various applications – all of which can use significant data."

The class-action was filed by two people on behalf of all customers who run iOS 9 on their iPhones or iPads. The suit seeks unspecified damages in excess of $5m.

Apple declined to comment. Instructions on how to switch off Wi-Fi Assist can be found here. ®

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