In a class action lawsuit filed in San Jose, California last week, Florida resident Debra Hilton claims that Apple was aware of a flaw in the flex cable that controls the power button on the iPhone 4, but chose to stay quiet about it to sell more handsets.

Hilton is seeking more than $5 million in damages from the Cupertino company on behalf of thousands of iPhone 4 owners she believes bought devices with defective power buttons. Allegedly, Apple knew about the issue, but did nothing to fix it…

GigaOm points us to the lawsuit, which looks like it was filed on May 10 under the RICO (Racketeer influenced and Corrupt Organizations) act. The site explains that this is a federal racketeering law that has become a popular route for class action suits.

In the filing, Hilton highlights a thread in Apple’s support forums, which is nearing a million views, as evidence to the issue. In the thread, users complained of ‘wiggly’ power buttons on their iPhone 4 handsets that would neither lock, nor power down.

The issue seems to, more often than not, pop up after the device is well past a year old, meaning that folks without AppleCare plans are left out of warranty. And judging by the comments, it’s an expensive problem to fix—most reported paying $150 in repairs.

It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out. Apple just started mailing out checks to plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit over antennagate. And it also recently reached a pricey ($53 million) settlement in another suit over its iPhone/iPod touch warranties.

  • This is so true. I only took my Iphone 5 to the Apple store and got an exchange yesterday (im in the UK) because the lock/power button was being dodgy and at times would take over ten pushes just to lock the phone

    What’s more is that I spoke to two customers in the Genius Bar yesterday who unluckily had a expired warranty and were charged £100 and £140 for a mal(not)functioning WI-FI on his Iphone and a mal(not)functioning Macbook that couldn’t connect to her HP printer through bluetooth respectively.

    Apple is kind of letting me down if I’m honest

    • If the person you spoke to at the Genius Bar had a iPhone 4 than that’s out of warranty..but if it was a 4S/5 under EU law than you get a 2 year warranty.

  • I had problems with the volume-up button. Unfortunately I was out of warranty and I had to pay more than 250 euro and to give my phone for a new one. I do not trust unauthorised services and I had no other option in the Czech Republic.

  • Nelson

    This is the reason why I had to upgrade to the iPhone 5, my iPhone 4 lock button stopped working almost a year ago.

  • Alex Tomkins

    I had the same issue with my iphone 5 as did my partner.

  • $150 to repair this? That’s a little much. At my shop, we charge $35. I do get a lot of these coming in, and very few iPhone 4S or iPhone 5. The design of the flex cable for all 3 is very similar though.

    • b_boy

      not $150 for the repair. $150 to replace the phone entirely (when warranty has expired). not a bad deal for a brand new phone.

      • ” it’s an expensive problem to fix—most reported paying $150 in repairs.”

        Read it again

  • somebody should make another lawsuit for the breaking screens. 50% of people I know with iPhone 4/4s had it at least once. Mine broke 2 times falling from less than 1meter(parquet, not concrete), Gorilla glass DUH…

    • Screens are relatively cheap to replace. I broke mine (4S) in the top left hand corner and despite being cracked the screen was still fully operable (my digitiser was fine). I paid £40 (about $60) for a new screen. I feel for owners of an iPhone 5 with a broken screen though as the touch screen component and screen are now integrated into one layer of glass so it can’t be cheap to replace and once the screen is cracked then that portion of screen will not work…

  • Gorgonphone

    it does

  • Pryesh Gohil

    i had the same issue with my power button…you need to press it down 3 or few times before something actually happens…jumped the galaxy s4 ship really good phone

  • Pryesh Gohil

    You are pressing it wrong lol

    • These people are forgetting that it’s a feature

      • Javier Martinez

        The ability to power down is a feature?

      • Didn’t catch the “it’s a feature” joke?? 🙁

      • Dylfo

        What’s a feature..?

  • Andrew

    Start using activator so u don’t always need ur power button to turn off ur device.

    • Except you need to be jailbroken. Also it is impossible (afaik) to get into DFU mode without a power button…

      • brian

        turn on assistive touch (non jail broken phone) so anyone can use it. still does not excuse apple for this. I was going to pick up a button and flex cable on amazon and repair it mysleft but it was going to cost me over 50$ after shipping. i might as well at that point just go to the apple store and do an out of warranty exchange. i am avoiding it as i dont want a refurbed exhange.

        anyway…. i am in canada and want to be part of this class action lawsuit

        assisitvie touch:
        Settings / General / Accessibility / assistive touch
        puts a touch screen button (home button) on your screen.
        you can do screen shots, lock device, shut down your phone (holiding your finger on the lock icon)..then use a power cable to plug phone in to turn it back on.
        this is a temporary solution until apple replaces our phones or repairs them.

      • Wow that’s a really cool feature baked right into stock iOS that I never even knew existed thanks for sharing!

        EDIT: Assistive touch works so well I managed to do a three finger Zephyr app close gesture with only one touch of the screen (I recorded the gesture).

      • brian

        no problem !!! glad i can share some knowledge. It was one of the apple store sales guys that showed me that feature. When i was there to find out my options for the power button repair, he whispered the “free” option to me :-). so i took that knowledge and left the store, LOL !!!

      • I wonder if a jailbreak dev could add some toggles to it such as 3G, WIFI, etc. that would be a brilliant tweak…

      • cool

      • Andrew

        That was mostly a preventative measure. In the sense that if you don’t have to use your power button then it won’t wear out as quickly.

  • brian

    how do i join this lawsuit. i want my phone fixed, i should not have to pay for this reapir.
    iphone 4 purchased december 2011. it is only 18 months old.

  • Latrese

    Bought my iphone 4 brand new last year,,not a single hardware problem… Dang 😉

  • @dongiuj

    3 iphone 4’s of mine within the first month had nothing but problems. I can’t believe the price of apple products and yet they can’t get buttons to work just a few years. It’s lucky that i get given the phone on a 2 uear contract because there’s no way i would walk into an apple store, hand over a lump sum of my hard earned cash just to be given something
    That might work. Offering one year warrenties just shows apples’ greed/lack of confidence in their products/their knowledge they know it will break shortly after the warrenty is up. I thought people said apple is all about quality. BS!

  • I had every iPhone since it came out…never had issues with the button….everyone I know also have no issues…I guess some people just wear it out faster than others..

    Galaxy Smartphones literally killed the iPhone toy in every Toture Tests–See yearly CNET torture tests.
    All techies knows Galaxy products are far superior in quality and 2~3 year advance than outdated flimsy iPhone, iPad.

  • As a cell phone tech for TrenPenn Elec. I have seen hundreds of iPhones with bad power buttons. And it’s usually the same issue. A small sticker with a small point in the middle of it has slipped off the power button metal tabs. It’s a rather easy fix by simply moving the sticker back in place. And attaching it firmly with something else. Lets say a small piece of scotch tape. And no the repair only cost 40 bucks. Even if it needs a new flex it’s still 40. So whoever is paying 150 is getting highly ripped off.

  • Panos

    I had the same problem with my 4s. 10 days after the guarantee was exired my power button was dead. Btw i was using activator for the last six months before my power button crashed.

  • Hunter

    I’ve had my iphone 4s for 2 years now not a thing has broke

  • Chris

    Ha! Well done apple…first my home button goes out (for the most part, luckily it is working some but probably not for long)…and now my sleep button went out a few weeks ago. I wouldn’t be able to use my phone if it wasn’t for jailbreaking it. People expect quality when they buy apple products…not always the case as I have seen. My crackbook is proof as well…although apple did fix that for free.

    Also to be clear…I’m an apple fan. Apple get it together, seriously.

  • Rayvon Owens

    if your power button is broken and your phone isn’t jailbroken you can still turn it off. In the Settings app tap general > accessibility > assistive touch and turn it on, A box with a white circle shows up and if you hold the lock screen icon the slide to power off screen shows up. To turn it back on you’ll have to plug it in.