Apple iMessage lawsuit will go ahead, California judge rules

Hours after Apple answered years of complaints by users and issued a tool to correct a bug in its routing of text messages, a federal judge in California ruled a lawsuit against the company over the issue can go ahead.

The problem revolves around the way text messages are handled by the iMessage app, which became the default for such messages with the introduction of iOS 5 in October 2011. Messages between iPhone users were routed through Apple’s iMessage system rather than the traditional SMS infrastructure and that meant problems for users who switched from iPhones to other devices. After they switched, messages from Apple users to their new phones were still sent through iMessage. Because it’s only available on iOS devices, users had no way of receiving those messages.

On Monday, the company rolled out a website that allowed users to deregister their phones with iMessage. The new site ends years of advice to users to either insert their SIM card in their old iPhone or, if they no longer had access to the phone, to contact Apple support.

But the debut of that site did little to affect a lawsuit brought against Apple by Adrienne Moore, who bought an iPhone 4 in March 2011 and subsequently switched to a Samsung Galaxy S5.

Moore alleged that Apple intereferred with her wireless service by failing to deliver messages and, in doing so, broke California consumer protection laws. Apple has countered that Moore’s argument fails to meet the legal standards for such complaints.

On Monday evening, Judge Lucy Koh said she was convinced that by failing to deliver text messages, Apple might have deprived her of a service she had paid Verizon Wireless to receive. Koh dismissed two of Moore’s claims under competition law, but said the third could go ahead.

Moore is seeking class action for the claim, which would allow others to join her in the suit against Apple. She has also asked for an undisclosed amount of damages to be determined at a jury trial.

As a next step, Koh has asked Apple and Moore to meet to attempt to settle their differences through mediation.

Koh is no stranger to Apple. She presided over three jury trials in which Apple and Samsung were arguing over copyright and patent infringement on smartphones, alleging billions of dollars in damages. The juries found largely in Apple’s favor, but the cases continue in the appeals phase.

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