Apple Computer Inc. has agreed to a tentative settlement in a class-action suit brought by iPod owners who claimed the first few generations of the ubiquitous digital gadget came with faulty batteries.
According to the terms of the settlement, anyone who bought an iPod before May 2004 and has had a battery issue or whose device has conked out can file a claim for relief.
The majority of the plaintiffs in the suit bought the third generation of the iPod, and they will be offered a one-year extension on the battery warranty if they fill out claim forms, which are available at appleipodsettlement.com. If the iPod fails within that year they can request a new iPod or a replacement battery. Consumers who bought first- or second-generation iPods can opt for a $25 payment or a $50 coupon good for the purchase of any Apple product, except, iTunes downloads or iTunes gift certificates.
An Apple spokesperson did not return calls seeking comment on the terms of the deal, but the lead lawyer for the plaintiffs, Eric Gibbs, said he was pleased with the result.
"We think the terms are excellent," Gibbs said. "At the heart of this settlement is the promise of a replacement iPod for people who bought the third-generation iPod. We think most people would select the new iPod or battery option over the coupon."
Gibbs said the settlement could affect as many as 2 million people who bought the first three generations of the music player through May 2004.
Though Apple claimed a battery life of eight to 10 hours with continuous use for the device introduced in 2001, many consumers complained that the rechargeable battery unexpectedly petered out in a fraction of that time and wore out
completely not long after the device's one-year warranty expired (see "iPod Battery Woes Have Some Users Screaming 'Rotten Apple' ").
Apple initially claimed the battery would last the lifetime of the iPod. In 2003, eight consumers sued Apple claiming false advertising. At the time, there was not an affordable means of replacing the battery. In 2004, the company began offering a $99 battery replacement program as well as a $59 extended
The extended-warranty and battery-replacement announcement came, coincidentally, on the same day that a movie criticizing Apple by filmmaker Casey Neistat went online at ipodsdirtysecret.com. The film showed the then 22-year-old
spray-painting the phrase "iPod's unreplaceable battery lasts only 18 months" all over lower Manhattan.
Upon hearing the news of the settlement, Neistat was ecstatic. "Are they crediting me?!" he yelled over his cell phone as he maneuvered his bicycle along the city streets. "This is totally my doing! This should be called the Neistat Brothers Act. I think it's about f---ing time! But more importantly, this is a perfect example of consumers empowering themselves and holding corporations accountable."
A California judge will rule in August about whether to give the settlement final approval.