Demons from the past: Apple fined $27.4 million for intentionally slowing down iPhones

Demons from the past: Apple fined $27.4 million for intentionally slowing down iPhones
Back in late 2017, Apple had a huge scandal on its hands. The story goes like this — old iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s batteries were already degrading, and aging devices were starting to struggle with performance. It got to a point that the cells in the phones couldn’t provide enough power for intensive tasks when the processor asked for it, so the iPhone would just shut down.

Apple then released iOS 10.2.1, which “fixed” the problem. However, Cupertino kind of skipped out on disclosing what the fix was. It quickly turned out that the update would check an iPhone’s battery health and then choose to throttle the processor accordingly.

This resulted in a ton of iPhones suddenly getting extremely sluggish and users being confused as to why. With no knowledge that the device only needed a battery replacement, some may even have made the choice to make an emergency upgrade.

After this was discovered by independent researchers, Apple apologized and promised more transparency going forward. This is why today we have a “Battery Health” sub-menu in the iPhone settings — so that we can monitor this ourselves and see if we need to go in for a replacement. As part of the apology tour, Apple also ran a discounted battery replacement program, which covered affected iPhones for the low price of $30 throughout 2018.



France remembers, France fines


However, it seems Apple is not out of the woods yet with this scandal. In early January of 2018, French consumer fraud watchdog agency DGCCRF opened up an investigation on the matter. At that time, Apple was pretty open and transparent about the throttling, stating that it does take certain measures to reduce power demands in its phones, some of which might have an effect on performance.

Well, under French law, companies may be fined up to 5% of their annual sales for shortening the life of their products, especially if it is believed that the intent behind the action was to drive sales of new products. In its concluding report on the matter, the watchdog agency states that Apple "constituted a misleading commercial practice by omission." (via Apple Insider)

The DGCCRF, which is a part of the French Economy Ministry has ultimately decided to fine Apple €25 million ($27.4 million) and Apple has agreed to pay. French consumer rights group HOP (Stop Planned Obsolescence), which was the one that requested the investigation in the first place, said that this was a historic victory for both consumers and the environment. It is currently considering filing additional claims for damages on behalf of French Apple customers.

Apple's statement on the matter: "Our goal has always been to create secure products appreciated by our clients, and making iPhones that last as long as possible is an important part of that." The fine is equal to about $1 per iPhone from the affected batch that has been sold in France. Considering that the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s started at $650 (and are more expensive in Europe), we'd say Apple will be OK.

Of course, France isn't the only country, which slapped Apple across the hands on this matter. South Korea, Italy, and consumers within the USA have been in this party as well. But hey, to Apple's credit — it only got better after the ordeal. Tools like Battery Health, Screen Time, subscription extension warnings, and very informative privacy features have made later iOS builds all the better,

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