France’s consumer watchdog has slapped Apple with a £21 million fine for intentionally slowing down older iPhone models.
It’s been a common bugbear of tech consumers everywhere for years: Apple’s merciless cycle of innovation sees its earlier products suffer. Battery life fades, the operating system lags – all in the aid of nudging buyers towards the next big thing.
France’s consumer watchdog isn’t accepting the company’s tactic, serving up a mighty fine following the conclusion of an investigation launched in January 2018 – after which Apple admitted the unfortunate effect of its software updates.
While the US behemoth argues its updates were intended to ‘preserve battery life’, France’s Directorate General for Competition, Consumption and the Suppression of Fraud (DGCCRF) ruled that the company’s updates hindered people’s devices to the degree they’d be forced to upgrade.
In a statement, the government body wrote:
The DGCCRF has indeed shown that iPhone owners had not been informed that the updates of the iOS operating system (10.2.1 and 11.2) they installed were likely to slow down the operation of their device.
These updates, released during 2017, included a dynamic power management device which, under certain conditions and especially when the batteries were old, could slow down the functioning of the iPhone 6, SE and 7 models. Unable to revert to the previous version of the operating system, many consumers would have been forced to change their batteries or even buy a new phone.
Apple has yet to comment publicly on the decision, however the DGCCRF says it has accepted the fine. The Mac-makers have addressed the controversial updates before, as folks at home started to notice the effects they were having on their phones.
Back in 2017, Apple wrote: ‘We have never – and would never – do anything to intentionally shorten the life of any Apple product, or degrade the user experience to drive customer upgrades.’
The company’s earlier statement added:
We know that some of you feel Apple has let you down. We apologise. There’s been a lot of misunderstanding about this issue, so we would like to clarify and let you know about some changes we’re making. All rechargeable batteries are consumable components that become less effective as they chemically age and their ability to hold a charge diminishes.
Device use also affects the performance of a battery over its lifespan. For example, leaving or charging a battery in a hot environment can cause a battery to age faster. These are characteristics of battery chemistry, common to lithium-ion batteries across the industry.
Following that apology, Apple added a ‘Battery Health’ feature to an iPhone’s settings, where users can check how the phone’s performance is affecting its long-term battery life.
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CreditsDirectorate General for Competition, Consumption and the Suppression of Fraud
Directorate General for Competition, Consumption and the Suppression of Fraud