French prosecutor launches probe into Apple planned obsolescence: Judicial source

A close-up of an iPhone 6s smartphone in Taipei, Taiwan, on Dec 29, 2017. On Dec 28, Apple Inc apologised for slowing down older iPhones purportedly to prevent breakdown caused by battery fatigue.
A close-up of an iPhone 6s smartphone in Taipei, Taiwan, on Dec 29, 2017. On Dec 28, Apple Inc apologised for slowing down older iPhones purportedly to prevent breakdown caused by battery fatigue.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

PARIS (REUTERS) - A French prosecutor has launched a preliminary investigation of US tech giant Apple over alleged deception and planned obsolescence of its products following a complaint by a consumer organisation, a judicial source said on Monday (Jan 8).

The investigation, opened on Friday (Jan 5), will be led by French consumer fraud watchdog DGCCRF, part of the Economy Ministry, the source said.

Apple acknowledged last month that it takes some measures to reduce power demands - which can have the effect of slowing the processor - in some older iPhone models when a phone's battery is having trouble supplying the peak current that the processor demands.

The French watchdog's preliminary investigation could take months, and depending on its findings, the case could be dropped or handed to a judge for an in-depth investigation.

Under French law, companies risk fines of up to 5 per cent of their annual sales for deliberately shortening the life of their products to spur demand to replace them.

An Apple spokeswoman in the United States declined to comment on the French investigation, pointing to a Dec 28 statement in which the company apologised over its handling of the battery issue and said it would never do anything to intentionally shorten the life of any Apple product.

An Apple spokesman in France could not immediately be reached for comment.

A French consumer association called "HOP" - standing for"Stop Planned Obsolescence" - filed a legal complaint against Apple.

Apple already faces lawsuits in the United States over accusations of defrauding iPhone users by slowing down devices without warning to compensate for poor battery performance.

Apple also said on Dec 28 it was slashing prices for battery replacements and would change its software to show users whether their phone battery was good.