France is Investigating Apple Over Illegal Planned Obsolescence

By Tom Pritchard on at

For years people insisted that their phones magically slowed down when newer models were released, which was often dismissed as a trick of the mind among other things. Then it was revealed Apple really has started slowing down older handsets, purportedly to prevent ageing batteries from crashing iOS.

This made a lot of people very angry and was widely regarded as a bad move, since people saw it as Apple deliberately slowing down older handsets to increase the sales of newer models. That concept is known as planned obsolescence, and it's illegal in France - which is why the country is investigating.

Prosecutors are launching an investigation into the company, which is being led by the economy ministry's consumer protection agency, and follows a complaint from pro-consumer group Stop Planned Obsolescence (Hop). According to Hop an investigation makes France the third country to investigate Apple's actions (after US and Israel), but is the first where planned obsolescence is illegal.

Punishments include being fined up to five per cent of its annual turnover, or even jail sentences. You can't exactly send a giant multinational company to prison, so it's not exactly clear who would go should the investigation find evidence the allegations are true.

Hop has filed similar complaints in the past, including ones aimed at printer companies Epson, Canon, HP and Brother, alleging that they had been deliberately shortening the lifespan of their ink cartridges.

Ever since the information came to light Apple has been nothing but apologetic, even reducing the price of a battery replacement to £25. It claims that a new battery is enough to restore throttled phones back to their original speeds, while also promising to be more transparent about these issues in the future.

Meanwhile Samsung, LG, HTC, and Motorola have denied they slow down phones in this manner. While it seems unlikely Apple would be the only tech company to do this deliberately, you can be sure that anyone else caught up in this practice is going to start thinking twice about keeping it a secret.

If you do have an iPhone that seems slow, Apple seems more than happy to replace it for you - whether you actually need it or not. So here's how you can check to see whether it actually needs replacing. In the meantime this story isn't likely to go away anytime soon, so we'll be sure to keep you all informed of any updates.

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