DOJ, SEC start probe into Apple’s battery slowdown: report

The Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchanges Commission have launched an investigation into whether Apple’s battery slowdowns in older iPhone models violated securities laws.

The investigation is private and still in its early stages, according to Bloomberg, which broke the news Tuesday.

The United States became the fourth country to investigate Apple over its slowing down of iPhones in order to prevent unexpected shutdowns, after France, South Korea and Italy earlier this month.

France’s anti-fraud watchdog was the first government agency to investigate, as “planned obsolescence” — in which device manufacturers purposely slow devices to pressure users to upgrade — is illegal and can be punished with heavy fines and jail time in that country.

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In South Korea, what started as a complaint from a consumer advocacy group grew into an investigation led by the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office.

Italy’s anti-fraud watchdog is probing Apple and its main smartphone competitor, Samsung, for planned obsolescence.

Apple has received pressure from Capitol Hill as well. Senator John Thune, R-South Dakota, sent Apple an inquiry with questions on the slowdowns.

“Even if Apple’s actions were indeed only intended to avoid unexpected shutdowns on older phones, the large volume of consumer criticism leveled against the company in light of its admission suggests that there should have been better transparency with respect to these practices,” wrote Thune in the letter, according to Recode.

Apple has apologized over the slowdowns twice, once in a company announcement in December and the other by CEO Tim Cook in a television interview with ABC earlier this month.

“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. “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 its December announcement, Apple 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 in the next iOS update. The update will also grant users the ability to turn off the slowdowns.

The DOJ and SEC investigation comes at an inopportune time for Apple, whose 2018 first-quarter earnings report is scheduled for Thursday. Apple shares have dropped by 1 percent over concern about weaker-then-expected iPhone X sales over the holiday season.

Photo: Guests attend the grand opening of Apple’s Chicago flagship store along Michigan Avenue on Oct. 20, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)


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