Apple is preparing to pay out $14.8 million as part of a settlement of a class-action lawsuit that alleged the company stored iCloud subscribers’ data on third-party servers without informing them.
The free version of Apple iCloud comes with 5GB of storage, but additional space requires a paid iCloud Plus subscription. Plaintiffs in Williams v. Apple alleged that Apple made no mention of outside servers in its marketing materials or terms and conditions. (The current iCloud customer agreement does refer to third-party servers.)
Though Apple did not admit to wrongdoing, the company agreed to the settlement in January. A final approval hearing is slated for Aug. 4, but a May 23 deadline to ask to be excluded from the settlement — and to retain your right to sue Apple — is quickly approaching.
Here’s what you need to know about the Apple iCloud settlement, including how to know if you’re eligible, how you’ll be paid and how much you can expect to receive.
What was Apple accused of?
Plaintiffs in Williams v. Apple allege the company failed to store customer data on its own servers. Instead, according to court filings, the company distributed data among third-party cloud services like Amazon Web Services, Google and Microsoft’s Azure platform — a violation of Apple’s own iCloud contract.
The plaintiffs claim Apple “lacked the necessary infrastructure” to run iCloud and misrepresented the nature of its service, “merely reselling cloud storage space on cloud facilities of other entities.”
Customers wouldn’t have paid for a subscription if they knew Apple wasn’t providing storage directly, they claim, or they would have expected to pay a lot less. The alleged misrepresentation allowed Apple “to charge a premium for its iCloud service because subscribers placed a value on having the ‘Apple’ brand as the provider of the storage service,” according to the suit.
Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Who is eligible to be part of the iCloud settlement?
The settlement includes US residents who paid for an iCloud Plus subscription any time between Sept. 16, 2015, and Jan. 31, 2016, and had a US mailing address associated with their account.
How do I find out if I qualify?
You don’t have to do anything, really. As long as the email you used to sign up for iCloud Plus storage is still active, you should receive a notification that you are an eligible recipient, or “class member.”
How much can I receive in the settlement?
The exact amount of individual payments depends on how much storage you paid for, how long you had your subscription and the total number of people participating in the claim.
Don’t expect to retire on the payout, though: Between 2015 and 2016, an iCloud subscription ranged from 99 cents for 50GB of cloud space to 200GB for $2.99 to $9.99 for 1TB of space.
In 2018, CNBC reported that there were 170 million paid iCloud Plus subscribers globally, so individual payouts could amount to a few dollars.
How will I be paid if I qualify?
Class members will receive payment automatically. If you still have a monthly iCloud Plus subscription, your payment will appear as a credit on your Apple account.
If you no longer have a monthly iCloud subscription you will receive a physical check in the mail. Class members can also request their payment through an electronic transfer directly into their bank account.
When is the deadline to opt out?
If you want to retain the right to be part of another lawsuit against Apple over its iCloud Plus subscription service, you have until May 23, 2022, to ask to be excluded from the class settlement.
But If you do, you give up the right to get a payment if this settlement is approved.
You can also object to the settlement by writing to the court by May 23. If the settlement is approved by the court, you may still be able to receive a class payment.