Published in Mobiles

Apple sees global backlash against phone throttling

by on15 January 2018

This is going to get expensive

Apple’s undisclosed throttling of old iPhones for the “users own good” is unleashing a stream of hurt to the fruity cargo cult.

For those who came in late, Apple decided to throttle the speed of older iPhones on the pretext that it would extend the life of the battery. The only issue with this is that it forgot to tell users who would see their phone was slowing down and think it is time for an upgrade.

While the Tame Apple Press has been reluctantly covering the story, mostly from the angle that “Apple has said it is sorry what are you complaining about?” regulators, consumer groups and some users have not been so easily swayed. The fact Apple’s “fix” to the problem, giving users a cheap new battery, only applies to US and UK users.

In the US, more than 30 suits have been filed in many different courts throughout the country. Most of them focus on the claim that Apple slowed down users' phones without their knowledge or permission.

A typical one, from Scott Grillo, said his iPhone "suffered material and increasing degradation" after a software upgrade. He accuses Apple of "unfair business practices" and "breach of implied contract".

In a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook, Senator John Thune of South Dakota criticized Apple's lack of communication with its customers.

"Even if Apple's actions were indeed only intended to avoid unexpected shutdowns in older phones ... there should have been better transparency concerning these practices", wrote Thune.

Apple, of course, said nothing – transparancy is for other people.

An advocacy group in South Korea, Citizens United for Consumer Sovereignty, has sued Apple and its subsidiary in the country. It is now preparing a criminal lawsuit alleging destruction of property.

Go Gye-hyun, the leader of the group said that so far more than 120 people have joined the suit, which seeks 2.2 million won ($2,050) in damages per plaintiff.

In France, the public prosecutor's office in Paris opened an inquiry into the iPhone slowdown after a consumer advocacy group called Stop Planned Obsolescence filed a complaint.

Under French law, it is a crime to deliberately shorten the lifespan of products to make consumers buy new ones. Executives caught violating the law can face prison sentences of up to two years, and their companies can be fined up to five percent of their annual sales.

"At more than €1,200 per phone, these practices are unacceptable and cannot go unpunished. It is our mission to defend consumers and the environment", said Laetitia Vasseur, co-founder of the consumer group.

All this seems to indicate that Apple is fast becoming unstuck. Unlike Samsung’s “battery catching fire” scandal, the issue does not apply to a single model but anyone who did not upgrade to an expensive new model quick enough for Apple’s bottom line not to suffer. While Apple has the cash to pay all its users a couple of hundred dollars to go away, it is going to be a lengthy and expensive year for Apple, coming at a time when its iPhone cash cow is on life support.

Sooner or later users are going to wake up to the fact that that they can get a better phone much cheaper from a company whose antics force you to upgrade every year.

Last modified on 15 January 2018
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