Skip to main content

Apple faces $5M class action suit over iOS 9 Wi-Fi Assist feature using too much data


Apple is now faced with yet another class action lawsuit claiming that the company failed to properly educate or warn users over the potential for iOS 9’s Wi-Fi Assist to use substantial amounts of cellular data. The lawsuit arose after users complained that Wi-Fi Assist resulted in significant overages after going over their data allowance…

The suit — first uncovered by AI and filed in San Jose — states that because some users don’t understand how the feature works, it caused them to use more data than they were expecting. It’s alleged that costs resulting from Wi-Fi Assist exceed $5 million. The suit also claims that Apple’s explanation on the extra use of cellular data arrived too late.

Apple is accused specifically of negligent misrepresentation, violating California’s Unfair Competition Law and violating the False Advertising Law.

“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. Defendant’s corrective statement does not disclose any basis for its conclusion that an average consumer would not see much increase in cellular usage.”

Wi-Fi Assist is a useful feature added to iOS 9 which automatically switches users to cellular data when Wi-Fi signal becomes to weak to be useful. But, in the case, it’s stated that the plaintiffs — William Scott Phillips and Suzanne Schmidt Phillips — incurred overages on their iPhone 5s units after they upgraded to iOS 9.

It’s not unusual for Apple to face controversy after device or software releases. In fact, it would be unusual if the company didn’t face a lawsuit of some kind for its products not working as expected. Whether that’s because they drop signalbend a little too easily, or because kids spend too much money on in-app purchases.

For those wanting to check, you can toggle Wi-Fi Assist on/off by heading to Settings in your iPhone or iPad, then hitting ‘cellular’. You’ll find the Wi-Fi Assist option by scrolling right to the bottom.

FTC: We use income earning auto affiliate links. More.

You’re reading 9to5Mac — experts who break news about Apple and its surrounding ecosystem, day after day. Be sure to check out our homepage for all the latest news, and follow 9to5Mac on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to stay in the loop. Don’t know where to start? Check out our exclusive stories, reviews, how-tos, and subscribe to our YouTube channel


  1. Sounds like BS to me. Also sounds like these folks need to figure out their plans a bit better and might consider going after their service providers for applying overage fees to begin with. The problem here isn’t Apple since the phone is now and has always been designed to connect to Cellular when not in range of WiFi anyway and clearly marks which network is being used at the top.

    • Jay² (@Jay2Tan) - 7 years ago

      The problem is that wi-fi assist pulls data from the cellular network while connected to wifi. You’re still connected to a wifi network but because it may have a weak signal, it assists by using your phone’s data without letting you know it’s doing it.

      • srgmac - 7 years ago

        Good point — they could have put a new icon in the status bar to let you know when it’s doing this and when it isn’t. That would definitely help.

      • Rosyna Keller (@rosyna) - 7 years ago

        When you are using Wi-Fi assist, it shows the cellular icon, not the Wi-Fi icon.

      • srgmac - 7 years ago

        Damn wordpress — I can’t reply to Rosyna Keller — but anyway — thank you — I had noticed this on my phone before (it showing the “LTE” icon when my wifi was turned on!) — now I know; I’ll tell my friends this, thanks! Also — pretty funny, my wifi router is in my room, literally 5 feet away from my iPhone. Why should WiFi assist ever be working in this situation?

      • saykredcow - 7 years ago

        It’s not Apple’s responsibility towards anyone else at all if they want to have their phone eat up more cellular data than before.

        They could remove wifi entirely from the phone if they wanted.

        It’s these people who should have known the risks associated with their data plans pure and simple. There are options in the wireless market. Unlimited and overage free plans exist.

        What next? Are people going to sue Facebook because their app auto plays videos now? Ridiculous.

    • Except for the very early IAP brouhaha, I’ve been fairly on the side of Apple regarding bend/antennagate and so on, but to simply say “they need to figure out their plans” with regards to a feature that was added with very little information and no obvious explanation.

      For a feature like this, it could have been one extra step to notify users what will happen, or it could have been turned off by default. Instead, Apple chose to tuck the feature at th very bottom of the “cellular” menu, well below the list of all the apps you have installed. A section I am guessing many people simply haven’t visited for quite a while, if at all. Could this have been put directly under data roaming there? Of course. Or before the ridiculous list of apps? Yes. But it’s buried at the bottom.

      Living in Canada “fixing our plans” is much easier said than done. Data is a premium and can cost an absolute fortune to add even small amounts to any plan, which means that paying $60/month could easily end up getting you less than a gig of data.

      Now, while I don’t necessarily agree with a stupid lawsuit, I also don’t agree with Apple having NO responsibility to make new features that can use significant amounts of data obvious and clear for users, new or otherwise. And had they just complained to Apple, nothing would have been done. Look at the IAP situation, we now have better controls for locking down potential abuse, accidental or otherwise, something that wouldn’t have happened if a huge fuss hadn’t been put up.

      Blame if you want there being no other options for people to complain and get results. There’s no reason this couldn’t be made more obvious, or at least have been a choice during setup. I’m glad it’s there, and on my plan it’s a blessing, but it should be more clear.

    • stevelawrence - 7 years ago

      Nonsense. Apple implemented a new feature and enabled it by default without any notice to the end user which caused the device to suddenly use a lot more data than it otherwise would have. This is completely out of the hands of the end user, especially the average consumer who has no idea what new features are coming in software updates. Apple should have left it off by default, simple.

      • thecodee - 7 years ago

        Couldn’t agree with you more. I have my data plan very much sorted out as I’m not a subscriber of any of the major US carriers that advertise their ripoff plans as deals of the century. And yet I have managed to go over my plan limit and spent $10 more on data because I had no idea what was happening till I accidentally found the Wi-Fi Assist setting while searching for potential problems. Now, $10 is certainly not worth suing for, but it seems to me that some people here have become completely blind to the fact that not everything Apple does is right for the consumer.

  2. rnc - 7 years ago

    I should have went to Law School, and be a Tech lawyer, instead of a Computer Engineer.

  3. rnc - 7 years ago

    I should have went to Law School, and become a Tech Lawyer instead of a Computer Engineer… :(

  4. Jim Hassinger - 7 years ago

    Dumb. Now, I have an old Unlimited AT&T plan, so it doesn’t matter to me. I have actually watched half an episode of Game of Thrones riding home in the car. I don’t care. But how much is it going to cost? At most, one month with a high charge is a very powerful education. Feh.

    • Rosyna Keller (@rosyna) - 7 years ago

      Nothing, because Wifi Assist is disabled for streaming video apps, per Apple’s

    • Rosyna Keller (@rosyna) - 7 years ago

      It won’t cost anyone anything in that situation, as Wifi Assist is disabled for streaming video apps. Google HT205296 for more information.

      • Smigit - 7 years ago

        That might be the case, but if you read it closely they state:

        “Wi-Fi Assist doesn’t activate with some third-party apps that stream audio or video, or download attachments, like an email app, as they might use large amounts of data.”

        That “some third-party apps” is different to saying “all third-party apps that stream…”. It almost reads as if it’s up to the apps developer to choose how the app handles it.

        At best it’s an ambiguous statement for consumers and could possibly be an issue given the suits not so much about the feature being there as it is about the fact it was enabled by default but not well communicated to users. Even the support article is relatively vague in places.

      • Rosyna Keller (@rosyna) - 7 years ago

        I’d consider it definitive as there’s no way for developers to opt in or out of it. There’s no key or API they can call.

  5. Matt Troyer - 7 years ago

    My daughter used 14GB last month and cost me $75 extra on our family plan. She watches YouTube videos in her room which is the farthest from our router. I don’t think she changed her habits but WiFi Assist obviously switched to cellular data without her or I knowing it. I didn’t understand what the problem was until now.

    I’ll have to make sure that she has this turned off, but clearly I was a “victim” of WiFi Assist taking over and costing me money.

    WRT to Bruno’s comment below, he has a point, because the feature is useful and surely well-intended by Apple, but most of us just upgrade, review the new features briefly and move on, and it is not until we get our bill that we get the $75 lesson we didn’t plan on paying for. I would like to have had some kind of real-time warning from the OS that this was going on.

    Now I know, and I’ll turn off WiFi Assist on my kid’s phones.

    • PMZanetti - 7 years ago

      How about setting up your WiFi network properly instead of turning off useful features.

      • styreta - 7 years ago

        If the feature is overly agressive and decides the wifi signal is too weak, then the feature is too blame. If the wifi was fine for his daughter before then there was no need for him to, as you say, set up his WiFi ‘properly’. WiFi Assist should never have been turned on by default.

        If anything, his daughter should have received a prompt along the lines of; “Your WiFi signal isnt 100%, so if youd like we can use your mobile data connection to augment its speed. However, your mobile data plans rates and conditions apply”, to enable it.

    • Rosyna Keller (@rosyna) - 7 years ago

      Wifi assist is disabled for video apps, so you cannot be a “victim” of Wifi Assist, per Apple’s HT205296 support article.

      • styreta - 7 years ago

        What if she watches the videos in the browser instead of the app?

    • Phil Randle - 7 years ago

      As the guy stated below, WIFI assist wouldn’t have caused this, maybe its like my partner and she often forgets to turn WIFI back on.

    • Howie Isaacks - 7 years ago

      Fix your home network instead of blaming someone else. Teach your daughter to stop being so selfish, or make her pay for the overage.

    • srgmac - 7 years ago

      Ohh you posted the wrong thing around here, all the Apple fanboys are leaping in and ready to call you and your daughter morons and selfish idiots, etc! I feel for you though; because I am not a fanatic, and I am smart enough to realize that yes, this is a cool feature, but it should NOT HAVE BEEN TURNED ON BY DEFAULT BY APPLE FOR FUCKS SAKE! 90% of people are not going to read tech articles; they are used to using their phones a certain way, and if something changes that will cause them to use more data, and that is turned on by DEFAULT and Apple really didn’t make a gigantic announcement about it, they are in the wrong here and they should pay peoples’ bills. Apple learned their lesson, and now this feature is off by default going forward for new OS upgrades. If there was nothing wrong and Apple did the right thing from the start, Apple would have never turned it off…game over, the fanboys lose.

      • Rosyna Keller (@rosyna) - 7 years ago

        That’s the point, it doesn’t use appreciably more data. It was designed so that if you pull up Safari when on crappy Wifi (like Starbucks Wi-Fi), Safari would still work. In these cases, the Wi-Fi icon goes away and the cellular icon is shown instead.

        Wi-Fi Assist is never functional if your iPhone is not in use (as then all apps would be background apps and background apps cannot use Wi-Fi Assist) and it is never functional for apps that use a lot of bandwidth like Netflix, Hulu, or Apple Music.

        Wi-Fi Assist also respects all the global cellular data setting switch and the switches for each application.

        Given all that, in what possible situation(s) would Wi-Fi Assist use more data?

      • Howie Isaacks - 7 years ago

        If Apple had not turned it on by default, we would then see a story about people bitching and moaning that it wasn’t turned on by default, and a lot of people would be too dumb to know how to go turn it on. It works both ways.

    • The only way that is possible is if your daughter did not have a wifi signal to begin with in her room WiFi Assist will not switch you from WiFi to cellular, it will use cellular when there is a wifi signal ACTIVE and “assist” it. So if you access an app it might get 75% from wifi and the other 25% from cellular. Video streaming apps are excluded, so the only way she could have used that much data on your plan is bc she was not connected to wifi at all! Which is what it sounds like to me. To all those blaming apple, they are NOT the culprit here, it is the carriers. They know every feature in every update that is released. They wanted this on by default, so they are the ones to blame for this. Apple doesn’t make a single red cent off of the data that your provider sells you. But let’s be serious for a minute… who in this day and age that can afford a $650+ iPhone does not have a WiFi router than can stretch to their entire house, and internet bandwidth so slow that your phone determines that your cellular is faster. This is a bs lawsuit only for lawyers. Anyone that this effected in any significance already got a refund from their provider.

    • Paul Andrew Dixon - 7 years ago

      “real time warning”… so when the phone said there was an update available, and it told you what it was updating, and it had terms and conditions which informed you about it, and they also had a website where you could have gone and read about the new updates, and you could have googled about the update ALL before you clicked ‘agree’… hmmm

      Technically by clicking agree and installing the update it means you know what you are installing – no one forced you to update!!!

      It’s harsh…and it’s possible you kids updated without you knowing… but it’s a lesson learnt…

      I have an unlimited plan BUT i also have it set up so that i can only use 1gb of data over a 3 day period… this prevents me from going way over the fair use policy and saves costs…

      people also need to be aware that often ‘unlimited’ doesnt mean unlimited… their is often a fair use cap…
      But you can also contact your providers and have it set to limit your speed when you are approaching the limit of your sharing plan – in some cases you can have the data stop when you reach the limit — another way to avoid going over…

      regardless, if your daughters phone is switching over a lot, then i do think you should look into better wifi for her – get an extender or something… poor kid…lol

  6. nana (@purplemaize) - 7 years ago

    I use it all the time and I am not using that much Data, if your having a data problem switch plans. I share with both my iPhones so I have twice the data plan.

  7. Graham Banzer - 7 years ago

    pretty self explanatory that using cellular signal when wifi signal is low that cellular data will be used. how this will succeed in court is beyond me.

    • stevelawrence - 7 years ago

      How is it self explanatory when the feature is new to iOS 9 and switched on by default?

  8. lookerjdc - 7 years ago

    yet another idiot thinks its someone elses fault that they cant walk and chew gum at the same time…….

  9. styreta - 7 years ago

    The problem here is that its TURNED ON BY DEFAULT! I know alot of people that just upgraded iOS to get rid of that little red 1 on their settings app icon and dont bother reading into anything. A function like this should have never been turned on by default, Apple was asking for this suit and they deserve it. In some countries you pay 10 cents per megabyte if not more when you go over your limit, so the 14GB example a previous commentor gave would result in a 140 dollar fine! Thats insane! This should be turned off by default, simple as.

    • Paul Andrew Dixon - 7 years ago

      the problem is PEOPLE DONT READ!!!

      it tells you the update, it has new terms and condition, you have time to go check what the update actually does — you give permission for it to be installed etc…

      this is why so many people get caught out by terms and conditions etc…

      granted, it should have been turned off by default BUT it is supposed to be a feature that benefits you, they just werent anticipating so many people to have poor wifi

  10. I’m not going to take sides here, but the Wifi Assist feature in on by default in the settings when users upgrade. There’s no indication (that I have seen at least) that tells a user that it is on while they’re using their device. It seems that apple should have kept this off by default and had a popup that suggested turning it on if wifi signal were low. Users should also always monitor their data usage anyways.

    • Paul Andrew Dixon - 7 years ago

      When wifi is low it turns over to cellular data – the icon at the top of the screen changes from wifi to 4G/LTE etc… so yes, your phone has a clear indication of when it is connected to wifi etc

  11. PMZanetti - 7 years ago

    I enjoy these stories, as millions of iPhone and iPad owners learn that they have shitty WiFi and no idea how to setup a network properly. Then they blame Apple when the feature does it is intended to do.

  12. This is ridiculous….

  13. elme26bih - 7 years ago

    I think thats a big mistake of Apple.

    The feature is very useful, but …
    1. the Wi-Fi-Assist is very “hidden” in the settings.
    2. and it’s active by default.

    And this is the mistake. In the last time, Apple made some mistakes with new features or applications. They’re not that perfect, they should be. Photos, AppleMusic, Wi-Fi Assist, watchOS and so on!
    It’s very annoying! This is bad Quality Management!!! They have to care more about every detail.

    Sorry for my bad english.

  14. Steve V. Kass - 7 years ago

    No BS!! Not sure whether Apple should be sued or Google for the latest YouTube app….. It’s HORRIBLE and if one does not know about turning off Data usages, in Settings, under/in the Youtube app, and turn on [or leave it On] use only Wifi for streaming, you are BOUND to see your Data being eaten up. None of this I did not realized when I Updated the YouTube app a few days ago, It SUCKS.

    • Paul Andrew Dixon - 7 years ago

      no video app should use cellular data… that just crazy…

      it was just as bad when facebook made videos automatically play as a default setting — so annoying

  15. Phil Randle - 7 years ago

    I haven’t switched this off since I upgraded to iOS 9, its hardly a data hog. It has actually become useful it quite a few circumstances, like when I am leaving my house and the wifi signal is dropping out. To be honest, a class action lawsuit for sometime that has been able to be disabled since the first version of iOS 9, and Apple has already publicly stated ( that Media apps aren’t able to take advantage of the feature (spotify, youtube, apple music, rdio etc) so data usage would be at an absolute minimum.

  16. Howie Isaacks - 7 years ago

    Apple can’t be blamed for morons who don’t learn how to use their devices, and make proper choices. Wi-Fi Assist has not been a problem for me, and I suspect that it hasn’t been for most other people. I Apple loses this case, the biggest winners will be the bottom feeding lawyers representing the plaintiffs.

    • srgmac - 7 years ago

      How are they a moron when this was initially turned on by DEFAULT? No one even knew what it was — not every iPhone owner is a techie…

      • Rosyna Keller (@rosyna) - 7 years ago

        I wouldn’t call them a moron but the iPhone UI clearly shows the cellular icon and not the Wi-Fi icon when Wi-Fi Assist is in use.

      • Inaba-kun (@Inaba_kun) - 7 years ago

        They’ve opted to carry a COMPUTER around in their pockets. If they’re too lazy or too stupid to learn how to use it, then they should use a flip phone instead.

      • Howie Isaacks - 7 years ago

        They’re morons because they didn’t bother to research and understand the changes made in iOS 9. This kind of passive use of technology always leads to problems.

  17. srgmac - 7 years ago

    I have to agree here — I know personally 5 people who had their data usage go up after this — Apple should have NOT turned it on by default…and they realized their mistake, and it is no longer on by default. Obviously that was NOT the right decision — Apple changed it; if it was, Apple never would have turned it off by default.

    • Rosyna Keller (@rosyna) - 7 years ago

      Is that just an anecdote or can you actually point out these people and list the situations that caused their data usage to go up knowing the limitations of Wi-Fi Assist I mentioned above?

      • srgmac - 7 years ago

        Not an anecdote — my mom, girlfriend, and the rest are co-workers. My gf had a big “scuffle” with T-Mobile over this, she was PISSED. Yes, I can read. I know video streaming is not going to cause your data to go up, even if this is turned on. But I looked at my gf’s bill, and her history…for the past 8 months, she’s never used more than 4.5 GB per month (she has 5GB plan)…then all of a sudden, iOS 9 comes out with this turned on, and bam — 12GB used. I wish I could give her a line on my unlimited plan or something — I use 100’s of GB per month, on Verizon — costs me 30 bucks…she pays 40 bucks for 5GB!! That is downright criminal IMHO.

      • Rosyna Keller (@rosyna) - 7 years ago

        But is that actually related to Wi-Fi assist? Which app on her iPhone is using the most cellular data? (you can view the apps using cellular data in the settings screens shown above)

        I think a lot of people might be conflating Wi-Fi Assist with other things. For example, if you use something like OneDrive, Google Drive, DropBox, or whatever to sync photos, it may see that iOS 9 changed the format of the photo database, causing a full reupload/resync when iOS 9 was installed. These would all be background apps so they would not function with Wi-Fi Assist on but they would definitely function when on LTE if not in the vicinity of any Wi-Fi Network.

        (I use photo sync as an example because it’s the most likely thing that would be allowed cellular access, people want their photos synced, and also use up huge amounts of data if something ever caused the entire thing to be resynchronized. But anything else could do it, it is important to track it down)

        I am surprised she was able to use 12GB on T-Mobile after hitting 5GB as T-Mobile throttles to 128kbps (2G speeds) after hitting the limit. Although I guess it would only take about 5 days 10 hours 29 minutes 23 seconds to go through 7GB at that speed, assuming constant speed (which isn’t likely).

        My point is that there are a lot of things (including buggy apps) that could trigger massive data usage when upgrading the OS unrelated to Wi-Fi Assist. Especially as a form of Wi-Fi Assist existed in some form or another since iOS 6 (especially iOS 8) just that there was no way to disable it in the UI.

    • Maybe she’s spending more time on Tinder than she used to.

  18. Mike Murray - 7 years ago

    Since when did ignorance and not taking time to RTFM become grounds for lawsuits? I’m sorry judge, I didn’t realize that eating a razor blade would cut my insides up. Give me $1M for my ignorance.

  19. Inaba-kun (@Inaba_kun) - 7 years ago

    How depressingly tedious. Is there nothing for which “offended” or “upset” people will not use to sue now? They should a) grow up, b) be intelligent and proactive enough to either look at their phone’s settings especially after a big OS update, and c) have just selected an unlimited data plan in the first place as data caps are utterly retarded.

  20. John Smith - 7 years ago

    To me …

    Sounds like a valid feature.

    Needs to be OFF by default.

    Clear warning under the slider button.

    You turn it on yourself – at your own risk.

    If you are sufficiently on the ball to keep an eye on the wifi/cellular icon and your data usage then great, if not then leave it off.

    I think it’s ON by default and Apple needs to take some responsibility if that is the case.

  21. mrobertson21 - 7 years ago


  22. Pete Labozetta - 7 years ago

    New iPhone user here (long time Android user previously). I have a question: is there any way to check how much data your using based off individual apps? I have Verizon and I know they have a program which tracks your data for your billing cycle, but I don’t think it breaks it down per app.

    • John Smith - 7 years ago

      [Settings] … [Mobile Data] … Scroll down … Full list of apps and data used.

      ‘WiFi Assist’ On/Off hidden away right at bottom this same screen.

  23. fabrica64 - 7 years ago

    I really don’t get it. Wasn’t this “feature” on from the original iPhone (2007)? I remember that if I went off wi-fi it switched to 2.5G/3G/4G automatically, and it still does, even if wifi assist setting is off.

  24. I have to say, i got caught out by this, i very rarely go over 2GB a month, and in 3 years have never gone love 2.5GB of my 3GB allowance, i live in Norway and my tariff is 299kr ($35) a month, and for that i get unlimited calls and unlimited text as well as the 3GB Data… Well getting caught out, cost me an extra 399kr ($47) because of this, the tariff i have allows you to go over up to 399kr, and then it is unlimited for free, so the maximum extra i can be charged is the 399 more…! I ended up using close to 7GB of data. Whilst sitting indoors connected to wifi with the router not 3 feet from me…!!! I have raised the issue with my cell carrier as they are responsible for software updates, yes i know they come from Apple, but the law is a funny thing… I don’t expect to get caught again though, it is now switched off…!

  25. Paul Andrew Dixon - 7 years ago

    Its not for apple to inform every single person — it very self explanatory… it is called wifi data assist and it says it uses cellular data when wifi is poor…

    Some users have unlimited data plan, some have extended data plan, some dont have a data plan — it’s not for apple to plaster in huge horrible letters for the stupid people who dont know what call/data plan they are on…

    it would be like saying “i was charged for making calls to other countries… i didnt know that my call plan didnt cover that and charged me extra, but my phone still let me do it”…

    or “i went on holiday to another country and i was charged a lot for using data… no one told me to turn the data off”

    it sucks, but if you dont know you calling plan and dont bother to keep up to date with what changes are made with you phone updates, then maybe you shouldnt own a phone

  26. kjl3000 - 7 years ago

    Big surprise … That was really stupid, Apple.

  27. Will Van Gelderen - 7 years ago

    Why can’t Apple just make a better data manager app similar to what Windows Phone and let the OS decide from there. Windows Phone worked similar to this for me and I could easily tell if I was near my data cap or not, and if I was the OS automatically adjusted settings so I could limit my usage

  28. Apple asked for it on this one. I’m lucky I checked my usage after a week. I was headed for 4x my normal data. As soon as I turned WiFi assist off, my data went back to normal. I found it odd that it was on by default