France just fined Apple $27 million for intentionally slowing down older iPhone models without telling users. The penalty is equal to the amount of profit the company makes in under 3 hours.
Apple issued software updates (iOS 10.2.1 and 11.2) in 2017 that capped the performance of iPhone 6, iPhone 7, and iPhone SE models claiming that aging batteries can’t handle surges in energy use. However, the company didn’t notify users that it was slowing down their devices or that replacing the battery rather than the entire phone could fix the issue. Apple also didn’t allow device owners to revert to previous versions of its software, meaning they were stuck with the performance caps.
Apple has faced fines for this practice before, but the amounts have been tiny relative to Apple’s sales. Apple faced significant backlash for this fraudulent practice outside of France as well, including multiple lawsuits that eventually led the company to publicly apologize and issue free battery replacements to 11 million iPhones for customers whose phones were impacted.
In 2018, An Italian watchdog also fined Apple and Samsung each around $5.7 million for throttling old phones, and Apple an additional $5.7 million for not giving customers clear information about how to replace batteries.
Monopolies like Apple don’t like it at all when people repair their own devices. In fact, Apple has been ferociously suing and shutting down small third-party repair shops not only in America but around the world. To completely irradicate any chance of someone finding an Apple product in a trash dump and repair it, Apple forces recycling businesses to shred all Apple products completely. Yes, shred them into tiny little pieces so they can never be refurbished and re-used by anyone.
Apple’s relentless attempts to monopolize repairs infringe on customers’ rights to repair their own products. You don’t really own a product if you’re not allowed to fix it yourself. From the perspective of a monopoly like Apple, however, if users are repairing or recycling their iDevices, that means fewer sales. As such, Apple has increasingly become aggressive on this front, regardless of the impact on consumer satisfaction, customer rights, or the environment.
Apple CEO Tim Cook recently wrote a letter to investors announcing that Apple had to dramatically scale back revenue projections after it sold fewer iPhones than it had hoped partially due to users repairing and extending the life of their devices.
Also, Apple systematically overestimates the cost of repairs of its overpriced products. Customers who enter an Apple Store with a seemingly minor hardware problem, such as a flickering screen, are often faced with a large bill because they are told they need to replace major parts of the device. “I’ve broken my MacBook before and taken it to Apple and they wanted $700 to fix the screen. I ended up doing it myself for $50. This happens all the time,” said Jason Koebler, editor-in-chief of Motherboard. CBC News used a hidden camera at an Apple Store in Toronto to verify reports that Apple customers are often told their malfunctioning computers are not worth fixing, even when minor repairs could remedy the problem.
CBC’s investigative reporting proved what we already knew for a very long time: Apple is a monopoly that only cares about the theft of people’s money through overpriced products and repairs.