Tech

Italy hits Apple, Samsung with fines over planned obsolescence

Italys Competition Authority has fined Apple and Samsung €10 million and €5 million respectively for inducing users to install software updates which it says “significantly reduced” the performance of their products, it announced Wednesday.

The fines, which are the maximum allowed under Italys Competition Code, are the first to hit major phonemakers since Apple admitted in December 2016 that older iPhone models were deliberately slowed down via software updates. French prosecutors have also launched an investigation into allegations of planned obsolescence.

The Italian authority said it carried out two investigations that found that both phonemakers had “insistently proposed” software updates that were not adequately supported by the devices. “The release of some firmware updates for their mobile phones [had] caused serious malfunctions and significantly reduced their performance, in this way speeding up their replacement with more recent products,” the authority said in a statement.

The companies have been notified of the decision. Apple and Samsung did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Samsung in particular had “insistently” suggested to owners of Note 4 devices to install new firmware based on the Marshmallow version of Android, built for the Note 7 device, “without informing them of the serious malfunctions that the new firmware could cause due to the greater stress of [the] devices hardware and asking a high repair cost for out-of-warranty repairs connected to such malfunctions,” it added.

In Apples case the authority stated that since September 2016, the firm pressed owners of the iPhone 6, 6Plus and 6s/6sPlus to install the iOS 10 operating system, optimized for the iPhone 7. The firm had done so “without informing consumers of the greater energy demand of the new operating system and possible inconvenience — in particular, sudden shutdowns — that such [a] software update could cause,” it added.

Apple was also accused of not adequately informing consumers about characteristics of lithium batteries, “nor about the correct procedures to maintain, verify and replace batteries in order to preserve full functionality of the device,” the statement continued.

Italys Guardia di Finanza assisted the Competition Authority during inspections.

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