Remember when Apple throttled iPhones in order to prevent crashes caused by worn-down batteries? We called it Batterygate, and the French government is calling it what it is: criminal.
The Directorate General for Competition, Consumption and the Suppression of Fraud (DGCCRF), a French consumer watchdog part of the Ministry of Economy, began investigating Apple in 2018 under the country’s so-called planned obsolescence law, at the request of the association Halte à l’obsolescence programmée (HOP). HOP alleged that by deliberately slowing down iPhones—and not telling consumers—that Apple was incentivizing users to upgrade before they needed to. After a year-long investigation, the DGCCRF has fined Apple €25 million (about $27.4 million). Apple has agreed to pay the fine in order to end the matter instead of going to court. It will also display a press release as a banner on its French website for one year.
Apple claimed that their throttling was not an attempt to force upgrades; instead, it was done to prolong the life of the phones. They offered customers discounted battery replacements for the rest of 2018, but between long wait times and over a year of silence, it didn’t stop hordes of lawsuits from coming their way. (Maybe if they hadn’t been so secretive about the throttling, or been so hostile to user-replaceable batteries, or hadn’t designed such a faulty product in the first place…we might have been more sympathetic.)
This is the first victory under France’s planned obsolescence law, and it’s a big one. While $27.4 million may seem like couch-cushion change to a company like Apple, this is a big neon sign to electronics manufacturers that planned obsolescence will not be tolerated—meaning consumers (and the environment) may get their big break after all.