Apple and Samsung for the first time fined for slowing down old phones

    Apple and Samsung are fined in Italy € 10 million and € 5 million, respectively, for the proven fact of “planned obsolescence” of smartphones. This is the first fine for the largest manufacturers of gadgets for the special slowdown of the old gadgets in order to encourage users to buy new models.

    The fact of forced slowdown of smartphones in December 2017 was recognized by Apple , and a month later a class action lawsuit was filed against it in the United States . Then the corresponding investigations began in Italy and France.

    The investigation was launched by the national competition authority. As it turned out, some smartphone software updates adversely affect device performance.

    A statement by the antitrust authority says that "Apple and Samsung are operating in bad business practice" and that operating system updates "lead to serious crashes and significantly reduce productivity, thereby speeding up the replacement of phones."

    One could assume that slowing down old devices is a random “side effect” from installing updates, and companies do not want such an effect at all and are trying in every possible way to avoid it. But this is not so. The investigation showed that both firms do not provide customers with adequate information about the impact of the new software "or any means of restoring the original functionality of the products."

    If people knew that installing updates for the OS and programs on a smartphone would lead to slowdowns, many would probably refuse such an update. But the manufacturing company does not give them the opportunity to do this, and after installing the update there is no easy way to roll back the changes.

    For example, Samsung "advised the owners of the Galaxy Note 4 phone to install a new version of the Android operating system from Google, designed for a later version of the Galaxy Note 7." However, it turned out that after installing the new version of Android, Galaxy Note 4 smartphones began to work worse.

    Similarly, Apple advised owners of the iPhone 6 to install an operating system designed for the iPhone 7 - and this led to problems for owners of the older model.

    This is clearly the intentional actions of Apple and Samsung, which fit into the outline of the planned obsolescence and push users to buy new models of smartphones.

    Both companies received a maximum fine of € 5 million each and were ordered to post a notice on their Italian websites informing customers of the regulator’s decision. In addition, Apple was fined another € 5 million for not providing customers with clear information about the “essential” characteristics of lithium batteries, including their average lifespan, how to maintain them, or ultimately how to replace them with an iPhone.

    In December, Apple admitted to having a secret setting in the operating system., which forcibly reduces the clock speed of the iPhone processor if the battery is in use for a long time. Tim Cook, in an interview with ABC News, said that the forced slowdown of the phone was actually done for the benefit of the users themselves and to improve the usability of the device.

    When it became known about the hidden function, Apple assured that it slows down old smartphones not for the planned obsolescence, but in order to avoid inadvertently disconnecting / rebooting the smartphone, taking into account the battery settings. The charge / voltage of the battery and the ambient temperature are taken into account. The colder it is on the street and the older the battery, the more Apple reduces the processor speed. The processor slowdown algorithm began to work with the iOS 10.2.1 update, released in January 2017.

    After that, the company reduced the cost of batteries from $ 79 to $ 29 for replacement in devices without a guarantee. Cost reduced for only a few smartphone models. Apple also added battery status information in iOS, thus allowing users to disable the processor slowdown feature.

    The Italian Antitrust Authority opened an investigation into customer complaints at about the same time that a similar investigation had begun in France, which was still pending. According to French law, intentionally reducing the life of any product in order to promote sales is punishable by a fine of up to 5% of annual turnover or a prison term.

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