Apple and Samsung have been fined €10 million and €5 million respectively ($11.5 million and $5.7 million) after an investigation found that the two tech giants deliberately slow down their smartphones without the consent of users, possibly to compel customers to buy newer models.
The two companies were found to have encouraged customers to install software updates that their phones cannot handle very well, without informing them. The operating system updates meanwhile, are not reversible.
The fines which specifically relate to the iPhone 6 and the Samsung Note 4, were handed in Italy after the Italian anti-trust authority investigated complaints from customers around January.
According to the Italian agency’s findings, Apple ‘insistently suggested’ to users of the iPhone 6 to upgrade their iOS to a version designed for the iPhone 7. Customers were not warned that the system update would reduce the speed of their device. The investigations found Apple did not give customers important information about the phone’s lithium batteries like their duration, replacement, care and maintenance.
Samsung also repeatedly suggested to users of its 2014 Note 4, to upgrade their Android OS to a version that is more suitable for the Note 7, without informing them that the update would slow down their device and result in malfunctions that are not covered by warranty.
The two companies – Apple especially – have been at the centre of rumours and complaints that they deliberately slow down older models of their phones to make them obsolete and compel customers to discard them. This is however the first time that they have actually been fined for it.
In 2017, Apple CEO Tim Cook apologised after it emerged the company was slowing down some iPhone models. The company explained that the reason for that was rather to make the old phones last longer as their batteries get older, and prevent them from having unexpected shutdowns.
On their part, Samsung have promised to cooperate with authorities and have also said that they do not encourage system upgrades to reduce the performance and lifespan of its phones.