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Apple hit with $27 million fine for slowing down old iPhones

Apple is still dealing with the fallout from its iPhone-throttling episode in 2017, with France’s competition and fraud watchdog agency, the General Directorate for Competition Policy, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Control (French acronym DGCCRF) recently hitting it with a fine of 25 million euros (about $27 million). Apple has agreed to pay up.

The tech giant came under fire three years ago when, without telling customers, it added a feature in several iPhone updates that slowed down older handsets. When this action was discovered, Apple said it was designed to prevent phones with older batteries from suffering sudden and unexpected shutdowns during peak performance times. But critics accused the company of throttling aging phones to nudge people into upgrading to a new model.

As far as the French watchdog is concerned, Apple should have told its customers about the feature, which it included in iOS updates released in 2017 for the iPhone 6, 6S, 7, and SE. The DGCCRF said that if customers whose phones were being throttled had known about the feature, they would have had the option to buy a new battery instead of becoming frustrated with their slower device, or feeling that they needed to upgrade.

There was also no way for the phone’s owners to return the handset to an earlier version of the iOS that didn’t have the feature, or even a way to disable it.

In a translation of a statement that Apple has agreed to display prominently on its French website for a month, the company says: “The DGCCRF estimates that Apple committed the offense of deceptive commercial practice by omission by not revealing to consumers and users the presence of a dynamic power management system included in the iOS updates.”

It’s not the first fine to hit Apple over the incident, either, as Italy told it to pay 10 million euros (around $11 million) in 2018 — 5 million euros for slowing down the phones and an additional 5 million euros for failing to give customers proper information on how to maintain and replace an iPhone battery.

The company was also hit with multiple lawsuits over the affair, and was prompted to offer replacement batteries for a limited period at well below their usual cost. Far more people than expected reportedly took advantage of the offer.

Apple still slows down iPhones with aging batteries to ensure smooth performance, but as a result of the controversy in 2017 there’s now an option in the phone’s settings that lets you disable the feature.

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Trevor Mogg
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