Apple faces more scrutiny over iPhone slowdowns in South Korea, Italy

The blows keep coming for Apple over its slowing down of iPhones.

Apple is facing a complaint from a South Korean consumer advocacy group and an investigation from Italy’s antitrust watchdog agency over the company’s practice of slowing down older iPhones to prevent battery-related shutdowns.

The two separate actions on Thursday come after more than 40 lawsuits in the United States and around the world, and after France launched an investigation into whether Apple’s practice broke any of its consumer protection laws.

Get tech news in your inbox weekday mornings. Sign up for the free Good Morning Silicon Valley newsletter.

Both the South Korean complaint and the Italian investigation stem from the belief that Apple purposely slowed down the iPhones to pressure consumers to upgrade, known as planned obsolescence. Earlier this month, France’s consumer fraud watchdog said it is investigating Apple for planned obsolescence, which is illegal in the country.

Apple has also faced scrutiny on Capitol Hill. Senator John Thune, R-South Dakota, sent Apple CEO Tim Cook a letter with questions about Apple’s slowdown feature and its transparency, and requested answers by Jan. 23.

Apple has repeatedly denied it engages in planned obsolescence. On Wednesday, Cook apologized about not being more transparent about the feature but said Apple reached out to iPhone users to alert them about the feature.

“When we did put it out, we did say what it was, but I don’t think a lot of people were paying attention,” said Cook in a television interview with ABC News. “Maybe we should have been clearer as well, and so we deeply apologize for anybody that thinks we had some kind of other motivation.”

In South Korea, consumer advocacy group Citizens United for Consumer Sovereignty accused Apple of destruction of property and fraud in its complaints, reported Reuters. The group also represents 120 plaintiffs in a separate civil damage suit filed earlier this month.

“For the sake of its loyal fans, Apple has to take responsibility over the slowing iPhones,” the advocacy group’s official Park Soon-jang told Reuters on Friday.

It is unclear whether the South Korean government will act on the complaint, according to Reuters.

In Italy, antitrust watchdog AGCM launched a probe into allegations of planned obsolescence against Apple and its main smartphone rival, Samsung.

AGCM said Apple and Samsung are suspected of conducting a mutual policy that took “advantage of the lack of certain components to curb the performance times of their products and induce consumers to buy new versions,” according to Reuters.

Both companies are suspected of infringing four articles of the country’s consumers’ code and will face multimillion-euro fines if found guilty.

On Dec. 28, a week after Apple first admitted to the slowdown, the company apologized and offered cheaper battery replacements. The Cupertino tech giant said all out-of-warranty battery replacements for iPhones as old as iPhone 6 can be replaced for only $29 — until this December.

Apple also announced a future software update that will allow users to check on their iPhone’s battery health. Cook on Wednesday said the tool will be in the next iOS update and will grant users the ability to turn off Apple’s slowdown feature.

“We’re going to give people the visibility of the health of their battery so it’s very, very transparent,” said Cook. “This hasn’t been done before.”

Photo: Tim Cook, Apple CEO, ends his keynote address at the Worldwide Developers Conference at the McEnery Convention Center in San Jose on June 5, 2017. (Gary Reyes/ Bay Area News Group)


Tags: , , , , ,


Share this Post