If there’s one thing that I’ve learned when it comes to taking any computing device in for service, it’s to back it up beforehand “just in case.” There’s no telling what service technicians will have to do with your device or what kind of mishaps could happen in the process, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.
However, it appears that at least one British man didn’t use enough caution when he took his malfunctioning iPhone in to be serviced at a local Apple Store. Deric White claims the Apple Geniuses never asked him if he had backed up his iPhone 5, and took it upon themselves to reset the iPhone, wiping out all of its data in the process, in order to solve his issues.
“It was only after staff fiddled around they asked if I’d backed my things up,” said White, who was obviously distraught over the fact that he lost 15 years worth of contacts and countless photos with sentimental value.
Mr. White decided to file a £5,000 ($7,500) lawsuit against Apple, and today he walked away with a partial victory. We say partial because although Mr. White won his case, he didn’t get all that he was asking for. A judge awarded him £1,200 in compensation along with £773 in court costs for a total of around $3,000. The judge said that Apple had acted negligently in erasing the data from Mr. White’s phone while performing a reset.
“I accept the claimant's version of events,” said London County Court District Judge Ruth Fine. “The defendant's employees were negligent in the treatment of the claimant's telephone, causing the claimant loss of photographs of particular sentimental value and the loss of all his contacts.
“I’m satisfied he was unable to retrieve the lost photographs and contact details. Just because damages are difficult to assess does not disentitle a claimant to compensation.”
While we would definitely fault the Apple Geniuses if they did in fact wipe Mr. White’s phone without first telling him what the repercussions would be, we as tech geeks can’t completely absolve him from bearing at least some responsibility for his predicament. For starters, iPhones have two ways of backing up all data: automatic backups via iCloud and manual backups using a Lightning cable and iTunes.
If Mr. White had an iCloud account, he would have been able to easily restore his data (including contact information and photos). But in this case, he didn’t even setup an iCloud account, stating that he “[didn’t] like the databank in the sky.” Likewise, an iTunes backup would have made for an even quicker way to restore his iPhone 5 to its previous state before he visited the Apple Store. This method of backing up data also eluded Mr. White.
Apple argued that Mr. White took the risk by bringing his iPhone in for service without having any backups available. “In doing that, he made the decision to hand the phone over to them knowing the iPhone was not backed up and the pictures and videos were therefore at risk,” said Apple attorney Victoria Nottage.
Apple also contends that it actually warned Mr. White about the possibility of data loss. “It's the defendant's case he did warn Mr. White in restoring the phone the data was in jeopardy, they couldn't guarantee its integrity,” said Nottage. “It is something we inform all customers of before they carry out any action on phones or iPads.”
Obviously, the judge disagreed with Apple’s version of events.
If there’s one thing to take away from this entire incident, it’s to always have data backed up — preferably in multiple locations.