Apple potentially has a legal battle on its hands over iPhone 7 audio chip issues informally known as “Loop Disease.”
Two class action lawsuits filed against Apple in California and Illinois over the last week accuse the company of knowingly selling the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus with an audio chip defect that causes issues ranging from a grayed-out speaker button to customers not being heard during phone calls and FaceTime video chats.
The nearly identical complaints, viewed by MacRumors, allege that “the materials used in the iPhone’s external casing are insufficient and inadequate to protect the internal parts,” eventually resulting in the audio chip losing electrical contact with the logic board due to “flexion” of the device during regular use.
Apple is accused of actively concealing the defect and failing to provide free repairs to affected customers outside of a brief period last year, thereby breaching its warranties and violating multiple California and Illinois consumer protection laws.
The plaintiffs, including California residents Joseph Casillas and De’Jhontai Banks and Illinois residents Brianna Castelli, Karen Lyvers, and Matthew White, are seeking damages “likely in the millions of dollars” on behalf of all other affected iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus customers in the United States.
The plaintiffs are also seeking an order that requires Apple to repair, recall, and/or replace the affected iPhones and to extend the warranties of the devices for a reasonable period of time. A jury trial has been demanded.
In an internal document obtained by MacRumors in May 2018, Apple acknowledged a related microphone issue affecting some iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus models. The document, provided to Apple Stores and Apple Authorized Service Providers, described the same audio issues mentioned in the class action lawsuits.
Apple’s document said service providers could request a “warranty exception” for affected iPhones, which resulted in free repairs for at least some customers, but that abruptly ended in July 2018 after Apple deleted the document.
Since then, many Apple employees have failed to acknowledge the internal guidelines ever existed, resulting in many customers having to pay an out-of-warranty fee of over $300 in the United States for a fix. Of course, some customers have managed to argue their way to a free repair, but this is not common.
iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus devices still within Apple’s limited one-year warranty period or covered by AppleCare+ remain eligible for a free repair, but the audio chip issues usually take time to manifest, and warranty coverage has lapsed on many of the devices since they were released in September 2016.
MacRumors has repeatedly contacted Apple for comment regarding the audio chip issues, but we have never received a response.
The complaints are embedded below.