Tesla Model S and Model X drivers sue for non-consensual software updates causing 20% decrease in vehicle driving range, battery failure
Tesla owners and lessors today filed a nationwide class-action lawsuit against the automaker, following reports that Tesla’s automatic software updates to the Model S and Model X cause a 20% decrease in driving range and leave some class members to pay $15,000 or more for a new battery, according to Hagens Berman.
The lawsuit, filed on May 12, 2023, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, claims affected Teslas are “protected computers” under the definition outlined in the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and that the automatic updates which have led to decreased battery performance and battery failure violate consumers’ rights under the law.
“Tesla owners and lessors are uniquely at the mercy of the maker of their cars, and Tesla imposes software updates without consent whenever their vehicle is connected to Wi-Fi,” said Steve Berman, managing partner at Hagens Berman and attorney representing Tesla owners and lessors in the lawsuit. “We believe Tesla defrauds consumers and abuses this feature of its vehicles’ design, and it’s time to show Tesla that it’s not above the law.”
Tesla Admits Software Updates Cause Battery Drain
Attorneys say Tesla denies reimbursement to Model S and Model X owners and lessors who experience reduced battery capacity following a software update. The automaker has not, however, denied the relationship between software updates and decreased battery performance in prior litigation, according to today’s lawsuit.
In a 2019 class action against Tesla, the automaker did not bother to challenge allegations that an update had imposed an “artificial, software induced limitation” on the battery capacity of class vehicles. Instead, Tesla moved almost immediately to settlement negotiations with vehicle owners. That case also highlights a supporting declaration from Tesla’s counsel which openly admits to a 10% decrease in battery performance following a May 2019 software update.
Typically, attorneys say, when an automaker wants to perform a software update of any kind on a vehicle, it notifies drivers and describes the reason for the update. This gives customers the opportunity to choose whether to receive the update and ask questions about potential effects. Because Tesla can issue automatic updates whenever the vehicle is connected to Wi-Fi, and Tesla tells consumers that the software updates cannot be cancelled or reversed, Model S and Model X owners and lessors are left to believe they have no recourse if they encounter unwanted consequences as the result of a Tesla software update.
The lawsuit emphasizes that battery performance and longevity is at the heart of Tesla’s marketing, and states that the company, “represents that its batteries will outlast the vehicles themselves.” But some drivers have been told they must pay $15,000 or more for a new battery after an automatic software update leaves the old one completely inoperable, according to attorneys. The lawsuit states, “At no point during the process does Tesla warn drivers that software updates pushed onto the vehicles will result in the depletion of battery life, which – according to Tesla, are designed to last the life of the vehicle.”
“The fact that Tesla touts battery performance as a defining feature of its vehicles makes Tesla’s own software updates a particularly egregious violation of consumer rights,” Berman said. “It’s time to hit the brakes on Tesla’s unchecked exploitation of its own customers.”
In addition to claims that Tesla has violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, the lawsuit also brings claims of violation of the California Unfair Competition Law and the Consumer Legal Remedies Act.
Hagens Berman is a global plaintiffs’ rights complex litigation law firm with a tenacious drive for achieving real results for those harmed by corporate negligence and fraud. Since its founding in 1993, the firm’s determination has earned it numerous national accolades, awards and titles of “Most Feared Plaintiff’s Firm,” MVPs and Trailblazers of class-action law. More about the law firm and its successes can be found at www.hbsslaw.com. Follow the firm for updates and news at @ClassActionLaw.