Apple’s software update branded as instance of unfair commercial practice by French regulator

By Alexandre Vuchot

02-2020

An investigation by the French regulator for matters of competition and consumer rights, the Direction Générale de la Concurrence, de la Consommation et de la Répression des Fraudes (DGCCRF), has found the Apple corporation to have engaged in unfair practices in the roll out of its 2017 iOS software update. As a consequence, the American multinational technology company has been required to pay a fine for the amount of 25 million euros, and to publish a communiqué on its website.

The investigation by the DGCCRF followed a complaint by the HOP association, which campaigns against instances of programmed obsolescence. That complaint related to the 2017 iOS software update which was suggested to have led to a noticeable slowdown in the operating speed of iPhone 6, SE and 7 products.

In the aftermath of this issue, this slowdown of iPhone products was shown to be linked to the fact that the iOS 10.2.1 and 11.2 updates comprised a system for dynamic power management. This system could lead to a slowing of the operating speed under certain conditions, including cases where the batteries were older.

This fault, combined with the fact that the operating software update was irreversible, meant that many consumers were forced to purchase new batteries, or newer versions of the iPhone. Apple has previously recognised this issue and at the end of 2017 was offering significant sales on the price of new battery packs. It was in this context that HOP lodged its complaint against Apple.

In a press statement presenting the outcome of its report, the DGCCRF stated that the investigation had shown that consumers had not been made aware that the update that they were installing on their iPhone was likely to lead to a slowdown of performance for some iPhone products. While the lack of information provided to users was deemed to constitute an instance of unfair commercial practice, the enquiry found no grounds to treat the case as one of programmed obsolescence.

For its part, the Apple corporation does not intend to contest the findings of the investigation and has agreed to settle by paying the fine proposed by the regulator. Such a fine would be the most significant imposed by the DGCCRF to date and was said by the French Minister for Finance and the Economy, Bruno Lemaire, to show that the regulator is committed to protecting and responding to the needs of French consumers.

For the press release in French, click here.