Apple fined €25M in France for slowing iPhones

France’s General Directorate for Competition Policy, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Control (DGCRFF) has fined Apple €25M for a software update that slowed down older iPhones.

In 2017, Apple confirmed that it did slow down some iPhones, but said it only did so to “prolong the life” of the devices, not to get people to upgrade their phones. The company then later issued a general apology.

The company said the lithium-ion batteries in the devices became less capable of supplying peak current demands, as they aged over time. This could result in an iPhone unexpectedly shutting down in order to protect its electronic components.

So, it released a software update for the iPhone 6, iPhone 6s and iPhone SE which “smoothed out” battery performance.

However, DGCRFF said iPhone owners “were not informed that installing iOS updates (10.2.1 and 11.2) could slow down their devices” and an investigation was started in early 2018.

The authorities have now concluded that Apple was guilty of “misleading commercial practice by omission” by not informing customers that the iOS 10.2.1 and 11.2 updates would slow older devices unless the battery was replaced.

In a statement DGCRFF said,

Following an investigation by the Directorate-General for Competition, Consumption and Law Enforcement frauds (DGCCRF) and after agreement of the Public Prosecutor of Paris, the Apple group agreed to pay a fine of € 25 million in the context of a criminal transaction.

Seized on January 5, 2018 by the Paris Prosecutor’s Office to investigate the complaint of an association against Apple, the DGCCRF has indeed shown that iPhone owners were not informed that the updates of the iOS operating system (10.2.1 and 11.2) that they installed were likely to lead to a slower operation of their device. These updates, released during the year 2017,
included a dynamic power management system which could, under certain conditions and especially when the batteries were old, slow down the functioning of the iPhone 6, SE and 7 models. Unable to revert to the previous version of the operating system, many consumers reportedly forced to change batteries or even buy a new phone.

The National Investigation Service of the DGCCRF therefore transmitted the conclusions to the Paris Prosecutor’s Office in 2019 of his investigations finding that this lack of consumer information constituted a practice misleading commercial omission. With the consent of the public prosecutor, it was proposed to the group Apple – which accepted it – a transaction including the payment of the sum of 25 M € and the publication,
for a month, a press release on its website.

Translated from French

Apple has accepted the fine and as part of the agreement, must display a notice on its French-language website for a month.

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