Tech giants, Apple and Samsung, have both been fined by an Italian court, for purposefully slowing down their smartphones through the installation of updates that were incompatible to older versions of their devices to prompt users to buy their newer models. Samsung was penalized £4.4 m while Apple was required to pay a huge sum amount to £ 8.9m which was the first ruling of its kind with regards to smartphone manufacturers.
Based on two investigations launched by the anti-trust authority, AGCM, they determined that the tech giants practiced unfair methods in selling their products, according to their statement. AGCM further stated that both Apple and Samsung did not warn their customers that updating their devices with the new operating system will cause their smartphones to slow down and affect their functionality as well. The group also added that both Apple and Samsung did not provide enough information on the impact of installing new software or even provided them with tools on how to restore their phone to their original function.
In their statement, the updated operating system triggered serious malfunctions on the devices which not only significantly affected the phones’ performance, but it also caused their customers to get replacement for their malfunctioning devices with the latest products.
The group alleged that Samsung was insistent when it comes to suggesting to their customers of Note 4 to install the latest Google Android operating system, even though it was designed for Note 7. On the other hand, Apple was accused of pushing their customers who owned iPhone 6 to download and install the latest iOS which was designed for the iPhone 7 without informing their customers that dong so will reduce the speed and functionality of their current devices.
AMGC also discovered that Apple doesn’t have any support measures for iPhones that malfunctioned after the operating system was updated with the legal warranty already expired. It was only in 2017 when Apple opened the possibility for batteries to be replaced at a certain discounted price.
Aside from that, the anti-trust group has also determined that Apple wasn’t informing their customers about the characteristics of their phone’s batteries. This included the average length of battery life, the correct way to maintain as well as replace them so that they will be able to enjoy the full functionality of their phones for a long time.
Apple and Samsung Pay Penalties
Due to these findings, both Apple and Samsung were penalized for their practices with Apple paying twice the amount of fine that Samsung is paying because of their two selling practices.
Apple, however, had made some massive improvements to the performance of certain iPhone models with the release of the iOS 12 update. Older handsets such as the iPhone 5S and onwards received speed boosts with the new software update. This led to the camera launching up to 70% faster compared to before, while the keyboard appeared 50% faster and more responsive as well.
The anti-trust authority launched its investigation in January after receiving numerous complaints around the same time that a probe was conducted in France. In France, intentionally shortening the life cycle of any product to increase a company’s sales is considered a crime. The French consumer protection agency can impose a fine up to 5% of the yearly turnover or even put the offending party to jail if proven guilty. It appears that consumers took matters into their own hands when they filed complaints against these tech giants.
Apple was forced to admit last year that they did intentionally slow down the older models of their iPhones which sparked concern among its users because it appeared that they were being nudged to switch to their newer models.
In their open letter to their customers, Apple said that they know that their customers felt that the company has let them down and has since issued an apology for their actions.
Apple denied the allegations that they intentionally shortened the lifespan of their products. According to the company, they slowed their older models to help extend the performance of their phones since less power is being used. This also helped prevent any sudden shutdowns.
The US tech giant stated that their most recent software release, which was the iOS 12, was designed to improve the everyday tasks on both the iPhone and iPad. Like it was mentioned before, the latest software updated can also speed up the launch of the camera and keyboard, making the apps more responsive compared to before.
Apple Faces Several Lawsuits
Aside from the penalty that Apple has to pay in Italy, the California-based firm is also facing several lawsuits in Russia and a class-action suit in their own country too. Apple has since been the subject of numerous questions from the US senate with regards to the slowing down of their iPhones plus several class-action lawsuits throughout the country. There have been more than 60 separate lawsuits filed against Apple which were ordered to be consolidated into a single suit to be filed in the Northern District of California. It is still ongoing as of today.
In the case of Korea-based Samsung, they stated that the company doesn’t provide any software updates that will reduce the performance of their products in favor of extending the life cycle of their devices. And because of this, they will be appealing the decision. Samsung also mentioned that they will be cooperating fully with the Italian authorities with regards to the matter.
A spokesperson from Samsung wrote in an email statement that the company was disappointed with the decision since their firm doesn’t issue software updates that will affect the performance of their devices. They further stated that all updates issued were designed to upgrade customer experience as much as possible.
Both Apple and Samsung are required to publish an amending declaration on their websites in Italy with a link to the ruling by AGCM.
There is no immediate response or reaction from Samsung or Apple with regards to the Italian court’s decision regarding the matter.