Apple admitted to slowing down older phones. Now it’s being sued in multiple courts and even investigated by governmental agencies. Find all you need to know and your options for compensation.
After a data analysis by benchmarking firm Primate Labs evidencing that the performance of iPhones was degraded through software updates, Apple finally admitted that this was the case. Apple stated that the manipulation of iPhones’ performance was in order to prevent unexpected shutdowns and to prolong the lifespan of the older phones that struggled with newer updates (iPhone models 6, 6S, SE and 7). The company suggests that performance issues can be addressed by replacing the battery. Apple has since slashed the pricing of its battery replacement service (from €89 to €29) to enable consumers to restore the performance of their phones.
The scandal prompted debate over whether Apple was engaging in “planned obsolescence”. The practice is one where companies tweak their products to deliberately shorten their lifespan and to force users to purchase new ones. GE, Philips and a number of other lightbulb manufacturers conspired to do that in the 1920s to increase their sales. In France, Apple is already being taken to court under the “Hamon law” which explicitly targets planned obsolescence. Most interestingly, in Italy, the country’s antitrust agency (the AGCM) is investigating both Apple and Samsung on whether they have ‘reduce[d] the performance of their products over time… [to] induce consumers to purchase new versions of the same’.
The investigation of Apple and Samsung in Italy is especially interesting, since it has the potential of opening a whole new can of worms for the two companies. The investigation is concerned with potential violations of the rules on Unfair Commercial Practices (UCP). These rules come from EU legislation which is meant to protect consumers from common misleading or aggressive practices. They aim to enable consumers to be fully informed before making a transactional decision. The AGCM believes that because Apple and Samsung did not warn phone users about how their software updates will affect the performance of their phones, their omission has been potentially misleading and therefore illegal. The European Commission itself warned against planned obsolescence in its guidance for the UCP rules.
The Unfair Commercial Practices legislation has been implemented by all EU Member States. This means that Apple’s practices can be investigated in all the member countries. The legislation additionally gives affected consumers rights to claim compensation. Affected consumers can contact their competent agency with the following message:
Following reports about an alleged deliberate slowing of mobile phones through software updates by Apple, the Italian Autoritá Garante della Concorrenza e del Mercato (‘AGCM’), in its capacity as the enforcing authority of the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive (Directive 2005/29/EC) in Italy, has initiated an investigation to determine whether the practice has been misleading and/or aggressive. Will the company be investigated in our country? Regardless, could you kindly advise me of my legal options as an affected consumer under the law as implemented in our country?
[ The following table contains a list of all the relevant agencies in each Member State as well as brief information on the available methods of redress for consumers. While the most absolute care was taken when compiling the list, we would suggest visiting the dedicated website of the European Union to complement the information provided. The first column of the table contains links to the information sheet for each Member State (details about Croatia were not included in the EU database). ]
|Austria 🇦🇹||Verein für Konsumenteninformationemail@example.com||Affected consumers may file a claim for damages subject to the rules of Austrian tort law.|
|Belgium 🇧🇪||Algemene Directie Controle en Bemiddeling / Direction Générale du Controle et de la Médiationfirstname.lastname@example.org||Affected consumers may claim for damages subject to the general rules of Belgian tort law (art. 1382 of the Belgian Civil Code).|
|Bulgaria 🇧🇬||Комисия за защита на потребителите||Electronic form||Affected consumers may claim for damages subject to the general rules of Bulgarian tort law (art. 54 of the Bulgarian Obligations and Contracts Act). Collective claim is available.|
|Cyprus 🇨🇾||Υπηρεσία Προστασίας Καταναλωτήemail@example.com||Affected consumers may claim for damages through a civil action. Collective claim is available.|
|Czech Republic 🇨🇿||Česká Obchodní Inspekcefirstname.lastname@example.org||A cease-and-desist action or a general claim for civil damages can be filed before the competent district court.|
|Denmark 🇩🇰||Forbrugerombudsmandenemail@example.com||Affected consumers can get compensation by filing a civil lawsuit. Collective claim is available.|
|Estonia 🇪🇪||Tarbijakaitseametfirstname.lastname@example.org||Affected consumers may file a claim for compensation to civil court.|
|Finland 🇫🇮||Regional Administrative Office||See here||A complaint shall be made in writing and submitted to the Regional Administrative Office.|
|France 🇫🇷||DDPP||To be found on the website depending on area||The Court may award the plaintiff damages to compensate his or her direct and foreseeable losses.|
|Germany 🇩🇪||BVLemail@example.com||Consumers have to file a claim for civil damages in accordance with general principles of German tort law.|
|Greece 🇬🇷||Γενική Γραμματεία Καταναλωτήfirstname.lastname@example.org||It is possible to ask for damages as well as for any non-pecuniary losses. Collective claim is available.|
|Hungary 🇭🇺||GVHemail@example.com||Compensation available if damage was caused and this can be evidenced in court. Collective claim is available.|
|Ireland 🇮🇪||CCPC||Electronic form||An affected consumer may apply to a Court for damages (including exemplary). Collective claim is available.|
|Italy 🇮🇹||AGCM||Electronic form||Redress is possible by bringing court action. Collective claim is available (Article 140-bis Consumer Protection Code).|
|Latvia 🇱🇻||Patērētāju tiesību aizsardzības firstname.lastname@example.org||Through civil proceedings the claimant may seek damages. Collective claim is available.|
|Lithuania 🇱🇹||VVTATemail@example.com||The provisions of the Civil Code and the Code of Civil Procedure are applicable. Collective claim is available.|
|Luxembourg 🇱🇺||Ministère de l’Économiefirstname.lastname@example.org||Affected consumers may claim damages in civil Courts subject to the general rules of tort law (article 1382 of the Civil code).|
|Malta 🇲🇹||MCCAA||Electronic form||The consumer may elect to submit an unresolved case to the Consumer Claims Tribunal.|
|Poland 🇵🇱||UOKIKemail@example.com||Affected consumers may claim damages according to general rules of Polish civil law.|
|Portugal 🇵🇹||ASAEfirstname.lastname@example.org||Affected consumers may claim redress in a civil damages claim under Article 483 of the Civil Code. Collective claim is available.|
|Romania 🇷🇴||ANPCemail@example.com||Consumers may file a claim for civil damages subject to the general rules of tort law. Collective claim is available.|
|Slovakia 🇸🇰||See here||See here||Affected consumers may get redress or compensation by a civil action lodging to the respective court.|
|Slovenia 🇸🇮||Tržni inšpektoratfirstname.lastname@example.org||Affected consumers may file a claim for civil damages subject to the general rules of tort law.|
|Spain 🇪🇸||Spanish administrations (national, regional and/or local)||See here||The Court can order the cessation in the infringing practice or/ and can award compensation for damages or unfair enrichment.|
|Sweden 🇸🇪||Konsumentverketemail@example.com||A trader who intentionally or negligently violates…a provision specifically specified in the Marketing Practices Act… shall compensate any consumer… for any damage suffered…|
|The Netherlands 🇳🇱||ACM||Electronic form||A rectification can be claimed (section 6:167 Civil Code), as well as damages (art. 6:162 Civil Code).|
|United Kingdom 🇬🇧||CMAfirstname.lastname@example.org||
The Regulations do not enable consumers or businesses to take action directly against traders, either as individuals or collectively so are unable to claim for compensation.