Apple has been fined €25 million (£21m) for secretly slowing down older iPhones. The penalty was imposed by France’s competition and fraud watchdog, which found customers were not warned about the measure.
iPhone users, the watchdog DGCCRF said, “were not informed that installing iOS updates (10.2.1 and 11.2) could slow down their devices”. Apple, which in 2017 admitted to the practice, said it had resolved the issue with the regulator.
As well as the fine, imposed for “the crime of deceptive commercial practice by omission”, the company will also display a notice about the issue on its French-language website for a month.
Last year, Apple promised to be more upfront with its users over slowing down their phones. It said the measure was to prolong the life of its devices, rather than to encourage customers to buy a newer model.
Many customers had long suspected that Apple slowed down older iPhones to encourage people to upgrade when a new one was released.
In 2017, the company confirmed it did slow down some models as they aged, but not to encourage people to upgrade. It said the lithium-ion batteries in the devices became less capable of supplying peak current demands, as they aged over time. That could result in an iPhone unexpectedly shutting down to protect its electronic components.
So, it released a software update for the iPhone 6, iPhone 6s and iPhone SE which “smoothed out” battery performance.
The practice was confirmed after a customer shared performance tests on Reddit, suggesting their iPhone 6S had slowed down considerably as it had aged but had suddenly speeded up again after the battery had been replaced.
The issue has been a common complaint every time Apple releases a new version of its iOS operating system. The firm in 2017 apologized and added a feature that enabled users to switch off the performance management tool.
At the time, Apple chief executive Tim Cook said: “Our actions were all in service of the user, I can’t stress that enough. Maybe we should have been clearer at a point in time but our actions were always the purest.”