The law firms representing the plaintiffs began sending notices of the preliminary settlement this week to more than 2 million U.S. residents who purchased iPods between the date of the device's debut in 2001 and May 31, 2004. A judge in San Mateo County, Calif., is expected to grant final approval of the settlement at a hearing on Aug. 25.
The legal dispute began in 2003, when eight consumers in California and New York filed suits alleging that Apple had misrepresented the durability of its iPod batteries when it claimed they would last the lifetime of the device and would power uninterrupted play for up to 10 hours. Many found that the batteries held their charge for only four or five hours of continuous play.
As, hundreds of consumers began lodging complaints, said Eric Gibbs, a partner at San Francisco-based Girard Gibbs and DeBartolomeo who represented several plaintiffs in the case. His firm alone received complaints from more than 1,200 iPod owners, he said.
"Our view is that this is a very good settlement for people who bought iPods and experienced battery failure," Gibbs said. "We're proud of it."
Under the terms of the settlement, Apple has agreed to extend its warranty from one to two years for newer-generation iPods that came with dock connectors and were purchased before May 31, 2004. If batteries in those devices fail within the extended warranty time, Apple will replace either the battery or the iPod for free--or provide a $50 credit toward any Apple merchandise from its online and brick-and-mortar stores.
For consumers who experienced battery failure with previous-generation iPods, Apple will offer the $50 store credit or $25 in cash. Customers who have paid Apple to repair their iPod battery within two years of purchasing the device are eligible for a $50 cash refund. Apple charges $99 for such repairs.
Battery failure, as defined by the settlement, means that the device's capacity to hold a charge has dropped to four hours or less of continuous play in third-generation iPods and five hours or less in first- and second-generation devices.
To qualify for settlement benefits, consumers must present proof of purchase. More details about the settlement, including the official notice and online claim form, are available at girardgibbs.com.