The class action suit accuses Apple of misleading its biggest fans under the iPhone Upgrade Program, and is seeking compensation and an order forcing Apple to make the iPhone 7 available to upgrade program members.
Apple launched the upgrade program last year, offering the ability to trade in an existing iPhone after six months, as long as 12 of 24 payments had been made under the two-year monthly payment agreement.
The upgrades can only be made at a US Apple Store, rather than online. Also, Apple notes in the program's fine print that it "reserves the right to refuse or limit the quantity of any device for any reason".
According to the complaint, filed on Monday in the US District Court in Northern California, Apple exercised that claimed right at the iPhone 7 pre-order launch by preventing Upgrade Program members from ordering some iPhone 7 models while allowing non-upgrade members to order the devices.
"While scores of customers signed up for the program and were ready to take advantage of the every-year upgrade with the release of the new iPhone 7 and 7 Plus on September 9, 2016, Apple had a different plan in mind," the complaint from law firm Block & Leviton reads.
"It allowed non-iPhone Upgrade Program customers to snap up the limited inventory of the new devices while telling countless iPhone Upgrade Program customers to 'check back later'."
The complaint, filed on behalf of New York resident Emil Frank alleges he was unable to use the program to upgrade from last year's 64GB iPhone 6s to either the black or jet black iPhone 7 in either the 128GB or 256GB options. The complainant probably won't be able to purchase the devices until November, it notes.
The misleading marketing accusation focuses on Apple's alleged failure to deliver its promise of an upgrade "every year" due to the delay of weeks or months upgrade members face compared with non-members, who were able to order the same models for delivery in September.
The complaint requests that Apple offers reimbursements for any payments made on 2015 model iPhones during the wait for the new iPhone, and that Apple stop restricting availability of supplies to upgrade members.
It also wants Apple to ensure that customers are still eligible for the 2017 iPhone in September even if they are delayed from purchasing the iPhone 7.
ZDNet has contacted Apple for comment on its response to the lawsuit.
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