French prosecutors said Tuesday they are investigating Apple for violating an innovative new law on planned obsolescence, which could lead to a criminal conviction and have international repercussions.
According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, the investigation stems from a complaint made by the consumer rights group HOP (Halte à l’Obsolescence Programmée). The complaint is not convinced by Apple’s side of the story, claiming that the timing of the slowdown is too close to the release of the latest iPhone range, and suggesting that there is another issue at play here.
In a statement, Laetitia Vasseur, HOP co-founder and general delegate, said: “Everything is orchestrated to force consumers to renew their smartphones. However, at more than €1,200, the phone, more than a SMIC [minimum monthly wage], these practices are unacceptable and can not go unpunished. It is our mission to defend consumers and the environment against this waste organized by Apple.”
The investigation, confirmed by French prosecutors on Tuesday, comes just weeks after the U.S. technology giant apologized to customers for software changes it says unintentionally reduced the performance of older smartphones to prevent unexpected shutdowns.
In France it is illegal to intentionally shorten the lifespan of a product in order to encourage customers replace it. A 2015 law makes that a crime, with penalties of up to two years in prison and fines of up to 5 percent of the company’s annual turnover.
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 December 28 it was slashing prices for battery replacements and would update its operating system to show users whether their phone battery was functional.