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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10 Comments

9. cevon3239

Posts: 217; Member since: Jan 01, 2020

Not enough, considering how much they made fleecing people who's phones that could have repaired, but instead recommend to the customer to just buy the latest one. Apple always gets a slap on the wrist, just like other evil US corporations.

12. sgodsell

Posts: 7677; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

27 million is exactly that a tiny slap in the hand. Where as other companies we're fined billions. The same should have occurred for Apple as well.

6. Venom

Posts: 4114; Member since: Dec 14, 2017

Apple deserves to be fined for basically lying to customers behind their backs and pulling this stunt.

1. Iodine

Posts: 1520; Member since: Jun 19, 2014

That is just nonsense. The throtling is gradual, it happens only at low percentages and severelly degraded batteries. Low power mode on iPhone 7 clocks down from 2 to 1Ghz. Nobody complains about slugishness when using LPM. You would see your degraded battery as a much bigger problem than some smooth drop in performance. If you are really anoyed you can turn it off for an even crapier battery experience. Or just replace the battery as any normal person who wants to hold on on their old phone would do ! There is nothing to complain about. But the people who won the lawsuit will enjoy their newly bought iPhones for sure.

3. maherk

Posts: 7101; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

"If you are really anoyed you can turn it off for an even crapier battery experience" It's funny how you didn't mention the fact that Apple were slowing down the phones without letting their costumers know that or giving them the option to disable it. It wasn't until all the class action lawsuits that were filed against them that they admitted to slowing down the phones and then sent an update and added this option.

4. mrochester

Posts: 1048; Member since: Aug 17, 2014

It’d be really interesting to know how many people actually chose to turn off the performance management feature and live life on the edge.

8. Alcyone

Posts: 652; Member since: May 10, 2018

When my i8 gets to that point I'll be turning it off. T mo gave it to me free, anyway on cyber monday. Hell, my s7 is almost 4 yrs old and has the same speed as when i got it. Just need to charge it twice a day instead of one. However, i may change the battery and just let my 2 yr old have it as a toy and give her one of my 2 free lines.

10. cevon3239

Posts: 217; Member since: Jan 01, 2020

If the phone was so great, it wouldn't need one. While you brag about the iPhone so much, why is it that even cheaptastic Android models, still can use their batteries all the way down until the energy depletes vs an iPhone that the device powered off, even when the battery percentage was 20-30%,. Then after they got busted, they still charged you for the repair, where they charge all that money for $5.00 batteries. Because its the cheap Chinese made batteries and not the better expensive one Samsung makes. We don't need an app like this on Android, even though they do have them and even more so now thanks to Apple.

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