France’s consumer watchdog has announced it has served Apple with a 25 million euro (£21 million) fine for intentionally slowing down old iPhone models. The fine is the conclusion of an investigation that was launched in January 2018 after Apple admitted the effect of a software update it issued. The US tech giant caught a lot of flack for the move, which it says it did to try and help preserve battery life. Now it’s facing the wrath of France’s Directorate General for Competition, Consumption and the Suppression of Fraud (DGCCRF), which posted the announcement on its website. ‘The DGCCRF has indeed shown that iPhone owners had not been informed that the updates of the iOS operating system (10.2.1 and 11.2) they installed were likely to slow down the operation of their device,’ it wrote. ‘These updates, released during 2017, included a dynamic power management device which, under certain conditions and especially when the batteries were old, could slow down the functioning of the iPhone 6, SE models. and 7.’
It added: ‘Unable to revert to the previous version of the operating system, many consumers would have been forced to change their batteries or even buy a new phone.’ Apple has yet to comment on the decision, but the DGCCRF says the company has ‘accepted’ the fine. In 2017, the iPhone maker posted an apology for the move 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 wrote. The apology was accompanied by the announcement that the company will reduce the cost of replacement batteries for out-of-warranty iPhone 6s and later editions from $79 (£58) to $29 (£21) – starting in late January and available worldwide until December 2018. The statement added: ‘We’ve been hearing feedback from our customers about the way we handle performance for iPhones with older batteries and how we have communicated that process.’
‘We know that some of you feel Apple has let you down. We apologise. There’s been a lot of misunderstanding about this issue, so we would like to clarify and let you know about some changes we’re making.’
Apple explained how lithium-ion batteries used in the iPhone age over time. ‘All rechargeable batteries are consumable components that become less effective as they chemically age and their ability to hold a charge diminishes. ‘Device use also affects the performance of a battery over its lifespan. For example, leaving or charging a battery in a hot environment can cause a battery to age faster. These are characteristics of battery chemistry, common to lithium-ion batteries across the industry,’ it said. Apple also said it will issue an update to its operating system early next year to give users a better understanding of the health of their battery, so they can see if its condition is affecting performance.