Apple Receives ‘Planned Obsolescence’ Complaint Over HomePod Device

A Northern District of California lawsuit filed on Tuesday takes aim at Apple Inc. over customers’ frustration with its HomePod device, a wireless smart speaker for home audio. The complaint says that Apple employed “planned obsolescence” as a business strategy to force customers to purchase new products. 

The HomePod was allegedly first introduced in February 2018 and cost $349. Functionally, the HomePod could play music as well as connect to other Apple devices to control home thermostats and lighting. 

The lawsuit explains that in March 2021, Apple discontinued the HomePod though it continued to issue software updates for the device. With the discontinuation, Apple began selling a smaller version, the HomePod mini.

In May 2021, Apple released software update 14.6 for original HomePods. Though it was intended to improve performance, the update allegedly “bricked” HomePods, rendering them totally or partly inoperable. Apple received an unusually high number of complaints about the software update, the complaint says, but because the device was discontinued, the company had little incentive to prioritize a solution. 

Instead, customers were forced to replace or repair speakers at a cost nearly equivalent to their original price owing to the fact that by the time the software update came out, the products were past their one year warranty. In the case of the plaintiff, the North Carolina man had to pay Apple $279 to repair his device after the software update rendered it unresponsive.

The complaint argues that Apple’s conduct amounts to planned obsolescence, intentionally designed to make consumers feel the need to purchase new products and services, in this case, the HomePod mini that Apple brought out to replace the original HomePod.  

The lawsuit states claims for trespass to chattels, unjust enrichment, violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, California’s Computer Data Access and Fraud Act, and California’s Unfair Competition Law. It requests certification of a nationwide class, a California class, and a North Carolina class.

The plaintiff is represented by Bursor & Fisher P.A.