updated 05:35 pm EST, Wed March 29, 2006
Apple acknowledges flaw?
Attorneys representing iPod owners in a national class-action lawsuit today said that by introducing a limitation on volume control, Apple has acknowledged that its iPod line is flawed. "It is good to know that Apple finally acknowledges that there is a serious flaw with its iPod product, and is giving U.S. purchasers the same protection it has been giving French purchasers since 2002," said Steve Berman, an attorney representing the plaintiffs. "Unfortunately, this patch doesn't help the millions of people who own older models -- it is a jack-legged workaround that falls well short of what consumers demand and deserve."
Apple has admitted that its patch is compatible only with its fifth-generation iPod and iPod nano, though a congressman today applauded the company for introducing the safety measures. The suit was originally filed January 31st, and claims that Apple's iPod causes hearing loss, that the company does not adequately warn users of the risks, and that the design of its white earbud phones worsen inherent risks.
In 2002, Apple was forced to pull devices from stores in France after the country imposed a limit of 100 decibels (DB) for personal listening devices. Shortly afterwards, the company introduced updated software that limited the volume output, but did not offer similar safeguards in the U.S.
Apple devices can reach 130 DB -- comparable to an air raid siren -- well beyond safe listening levels, according to the complaint filed in January. The suit points to studies which indicate that hearing loss may occur after 28 seconds of sound at 115 DB.
"While the software allows users to set levels, the company does next to nothing to educate consumers about what is safe," said J.R. Whaley, another attorney representing the plaintiffs. "Many consumers would conclude that 100 DB is twice as loud as 50 DB but that's not the case; for every 10 decibels, the loudness actually increases twofold. Fifty decibels is twice as loud as 40, 60 is four times as loud as 40, and so on."
The plaintiff is seeking compensation for hearing loss and upgrades that will make the iPods safer, citing the company's early compliance efforts for sound volume in France.
"We contend that Apple has done next to nothing to inform consumers regarding these issues," Berman concluded.