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Apple Fined $41 Million For Slowing Down Older iPhones

Apple has been slapped with a $41 million fine for deliberately slowing down older iPhone models and not letting customers know.

The penalty was imposed in France by competition and fraud watchdog DGCCRF, which noted that Apple customers were not warned their phones would slow down over time.

Australian customers hoping for the same result would be disappointed as consumer laws in Europe are "very tight" in comparison, technology commentator Chris Riddell told 10 daily.

"But the message here is technology companies have to be a lot more transparent around their behaviour with consumers," the tech expert said.

"It's not just good enough for them to do something without consequence anymore. That's the overarching thing at the moment."

Image: Getty

In 2017, Apple acknowledged they do slow down various iPhone models but only to "prolong the life" of those devices -- not to incite buyers to upgrade.

The company said their contentious software update for the iPhone 6, iPhone 6s and iPhone SE "smoothed out" aging battery performance.

But they were fined because the French watchdog found iPhone owners "were not informed that installing iOS updates (10.2.1 and 11.2) could slow down their devices".

The company has given their reason for slowing down the phones on their website, but Liddell said "whether people believe that or not is another thing".

"They've explained lithium-ion batteries degrade over time, and Apple's tagline is they obviously want you to have the best experience with their product as possible so this fits within that message," Liddell said.

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"Being the first trillion-dollar company on Earth, I don't think they'll be hurt by this anytime soon."

As part of their agreement with the French watchdog, Apple must publish a notice on its French-language website for four weeks.

The notice says Apple "committed the crime of deceptive commercial practice by omission" and confirms the company has paid the fine.

"Everyone's gotten really frustrated with the big, Silicon Valley companies running the laws of their own land," Riddell said.

"I think what we're seeing is a tightening down on that globally now."

People wait for the Australian release of the latest iPhone models at Apple Store on September 20, 2019 in Sydney. Image: Jason McCawley/Getty

The Telsyte Australian Smartphone & Wearable Devices Market Study 2019-2023 found just over four million smartphones were sold in the first half of last year in Australia -- down six percent compared to the same period in 2018.

One reason cited for the drop in sales was a prolonging iPhone replacement cycle.

iPhone sales declined in Australia by 13 percent during the measured six months to 1.7 million, while Android sales remained stable at 2.3M million.

Contact the author samelia@networkten.com.au