In 2017, Apple confessed to spamming older iPhones with software updates. When it happened, iPhone users everywhere were understanably cross. Several lawsuits were levied against Apple, who in response offered discounts on battery replacements. But today, the DGCCRF, consumer watchdog group of the French government, doubled-down on the users' side, slamming Apple with a $27.4 million fine for failing to tell consumers that their phones would experience significantly slower activity due to software updates, according to a Gizmodo report.
Apple submits to France's ruling
As part of the tech giant's amend-making, next month Apple's French website will display a notice on its iPhone page, confessing its deception to consumers. In simple language, the notice says that in December 2017, public prosecutors received a complaint from a consumer advocacy group aboiut the massive iPhone lags. After an investigation, the DGCCRF found that Apple had committed "deceptive commercial practice by omission" by spamming the iPhone 7, iPhone 6 series, and iPhone SE with software updates.
The advocacy group called Halte à l’Obsolescence Programmée (HOP) filed a suit late in 2017 against Apple, and cited a 2015 French law banning companies from categorizing older tech as obsolete. "This is a historic victory against scandalous ready-to-rubish practices, for consumers as well as the environment," HOP co-founders Samuel Sauvage and Laetitia Vasseur said to AFP.
Plausible legal defense, poor timing
Apple initially defended its actions, and argued that slowing down older phones actually prevented poor performance due to aging batteries. It's not an unrealistic defense. After all, lithium-ion batteries lose their capacity to retain charge with age. Power usage spikes would, on a long enough timeline, cause phones to spontaneously shut down. The updates were created to put a usage ceiling on how much power a phone can use at one time, which extends battery life.
However, the DGCCRF's ruling states that Apple erred in causing these slowdowns without telling its customers. It's entirely possible that Apple merely wanted to safeguard the longevity of older iPhone models, but this is not how it looked. To everyone else, the company appeared to force its users to ditch older phones and buy new ones, which would mean higher profit margins for Apple.
As the major tech and communication companies of the world continue to expand their global influence, the ever-present temptation to cut corners multiplies geometrically. And it's up to consumers of every nationality to keep watch for foul play, so that the line between nominal business decisions and sinister exploitation is never crossed for long.