Toronto Star

FRANCE MIGHT BITE APPLE

French authoritie­s are investigat­ing “deception and planned obsolescen­ce” over secretly slowed-down iPhones,

- SYLVIE CORBET AND PHILIPPE SOTTO THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

PARIS— French authoritie­s have opened an investigat­ion into Apple over revelation­s it secretly slowed down older versions of its handsets, 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 to replace it. A 2015 law makes that a crime, with penalties of up to two years in prison and fines of up to 5 per cent 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.

The company said on its website “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.”

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

The French consumer rights group, called HOP, filed a lawsuit on Dec. 27. It 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, according to HOP’s statement.

Benchmark tests have suggested the slowdown isn’t huge, but noticeable. Although Apple has said that’s done to prevent iPhones from unexpected­ly shutting down because of weak batteries, lawsuits filed against Apple say that its failure to disclose that right away could have led some people to wrongly conclude they needed a newer, faster phone rather than just a new battery.

Laetitia Vasseur, director of HOP, said studies have showed that peaks in speed reductions match the releases of new phones on the market.

“We can see that there is an intention to have people buy new phones because of the speed reduction,” she told The Associated Press.

Vasseur said her group launched a survey following its complaint so that users can report problems they have faced.

Vasseur said she hopes the consequenc­es could be movement toward sustainabl­e products “for all manufactur­ers that won’t want to face the same kind of scandal.”

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