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Customers not happy with Apple’s ‘pitiful’ cure for iPhone ‘touch disease’

Apple is finally offering a cure for its iPhone 6 Plus models plagued by so-called “touch disease.” The affliction causes the phone’s screen to freeze up and no longer respond to touch commands.

The fix will cost American customers $149 US. Canadians will have to shell out $189.

The move follows months of customer complaints about touch disease and multiple proposed class action lawsuits filed against Apple over the issue.

The suits allege the California-based tech giant knew about the defect and failed to take action.

But while Apple is offering a fix, some customers are dismayed to discover the company is charging a fee and placing the blame on them.

“Apple has determined that some iPhone 6 Plus devices may exhibit display flickering or multi-touch issues,” states the company on its website.

This problem, explains the company, arises after the phone has been dropped “multiple times on a hard surface” and then is subjected to “further stress.”

‘Pitiful’ offer

“I think it’s pitiful,” says iPhone owner Trina Rae Wiegers from Prince Albert, Sask.

She claims that many smartphones get dropped, so if that’s the culprit, lots of different iPhone models should be suffering from the same problem.

“You can’t just pick one and say apparently people are just dropping the 6 Pluses.”

Trina Rae Wiegers iphone class action touch disease

Trina Rae Wiegers in Prince Albert, Sask. believes Apple’s repair program for iPhones suffering from ‘touch disease’ is ‘ridiculous.’ (Trina Rae Wiegers)

Wiegers owns an iPhone 6, which she believes also suffers from touch disease. She says it periodically freezes up and becomes useless. “You miss calls, you can’t text, it’s a horrible piece of crap.”

Other iPhone 6 customers have also complained of the same problem, but Apple is only offering to fix the bigger 6 Plus. CBC News asked the tech company why, but it did not address the question. 

Even if she could get the fix, Wiegers claims she would never pay $189. “It’s ridiculous,” she says. “It’s their problem and they need to own up to it.”

$189 fee for show?

Wiegers is the lead plaintiff in a proposed Canadian class action lawsuit launched against Apple over touch disease. 

A total of four proposed class-actions have been filed, two in Canada and two in the U.S. involving both iPhone 6 and 6 Plus owners.

“It’s a design defect, so to charge $189 to fix their problem is simply atrocious,” claims Regina lawyer Tony Merchant, who’s heading up the Canadian lawsuits.

He alleges both the 6 and 6 Plus were designed in a way that even the slightest bend results in a disconnect in the phone, causing the screen to no longer respond to touch. 

iphone touch disease

Many iPhone 6 Plus customers have complained that a flickering grey bar appears on the screen before it freezes up and becomes unresponsive to touch. (Yusuf Motiwala)

Merchant claims Apple came up with a fee for the fix not because it needed the cash but to create the impression touch disease is not its fault.

“Their motive is to maintain the pretense that they didn’t design a defective phone,” he alleges.

“What they ought to be doing is fixing all of [them] without charge and pay compensation to people who’ve lost the use of their phone.”

In order to proceed, all four class actions must first be certified in court. Apple would not comment on the proposed suits. 

Not interested in the fix

The term “touch disease” was first coined by an online repair guide, iFixit. It posted a blog in August claiming that iPhone repair shops in the U.S. were being inundated with customers looking for fixes for the problem.

After CBC News first reported on the issue, we heard from several customers who claim their phones are afflicted. They include Paul So from Toronto who took his iPhone 6 Plus to an Apple store last month. 

He says the customer service rep acknowledged touch disease and explained it happened when the phone was bent.

So says he was told he’d have to pay $425 to replace the device because it’s no longer under warranty. 

He wasn’t willing to pay that price and he’s not keen to cough up $189 for a problem he too believes is Apple’s fault. “It’s not right. They should acknowledge the fact they did make the mistake.”

Paul So iphone touch disease apple

Paul So in Toronto says he’s not interested in shelling out $189 to fix a problem he believes is Apple’s fault. (Paul So)

Yusuf Motiwala in Mississauga also doesn’t plan to take Apple up on its offer. “That’s a lot of money,” he says about the fee, estimating it would total about $200 with taxes. “I don’t think that’s fair.”

Motiwala’s 19-year-old daughter, Hawwa bought a second-hand 6 Plus for $750 in February. By September, it started flickering and eventually stopped responding to touch altogether. 

Motiwala believes the $200 fee would be better used to help pay for a new phone for his daughter — one that’s not an Apple product. 

As for Wiegers, she’s sticking with the proposed class action lawsuit and says she’s still waiting for the day Apple fesses up and addresses her problem — at no charge. 

“I just want them to fix my phone, that’s all I want.”

CBC News asked Apple for a response to the customer criticisms. It would only confirm that it is indeed running a repair program for the iPhone 6 Plus. 

As part of the program, customers who already paid to get their device fixed will be reimbursed — minus the mandatory $189 fee. 

Phones that have cracked or broken screens won’t be eligible for the repair.