France investigating Apple’s secret slowdown of old iPhones

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French authorities have opened an investigation into Apple over revelations it secretly slowed down older versions of its iPhones, the Paris prosecutor’s office said Tuesday.

The preliminary probe was opened last week over alleged “deception and planned obsolescence” of some Apple products, the office said. It is led by the French body in charge of fraud control, which is part of the finance ministry.

It follows a legal complaint filed in December by a French consumer rights group whose aim is to stop the intentional obsolescence of goods by companies.

In France it is illegal to intentionally shorten the lifespan of a product in order to encourage customers replace it. A 2015 law makes that a crime, with penalties of up to two years in prison and fines of up to 5 percent of the company’s annual turnover.

Apple apologized in December for secretly slowing down older iPhones, a move it said was necessary to avoid unexpected shutdowns related to battery fatigue. As part of its contrition, Apple is now offering to replace the batteries on older iPhones for $29, a $50 discount from the usual price.

But Apple also has denied the slowdown of the older phones is a ploy designed to spur sales of newer models. “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 said on its website.

Apple France didn’t respond to email and phone requests for comment on the latest legal developments in France from The Associated Press.

Lawsuits against the company have also been filed in the U.S. and Israel.

Creative Strategies analyst Carolina Milanesi believes Apple’s throttling of older iPhones is helping to extend the devices’ lives by enabling to take advantage of the new features in the company’s free software updates each year.

The company’s choice boiled down to “let the phone just run at full speed and kill the prematurely aged batteries or slow down the phone so the battery would last longer,” Milanesi wrote in a recent analysis.

The French consumer rights group, called HOP, filed a lawsuit on Dec. 27. Its statement claims Apple slowed down older smartphones in order to make clients buy the new iPhone 8, which was launched on the market around the same time.

Benchmark tests have suggested the slowdown isn’t…

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