Italy fines Apple and Samsung

Italy’s competition authority has fined Apple and Samsung €10-million and €5-million respectively for the so-called “planned obsolescence” of their smartphones.

Wednesday’s ruling is believed to be the first against the manufacturers following accusations worldwide that they encourage operating system updates to older phones, which slow them down, thereby encouraging the purchase of new phones.

Two “complex investigations” by the Autorità Garante della Concorrenza e del Mercato (AGCM) revealed the companies implemented unfair commercial practices.

They “induced consumers to install software updates that are not adequately supported by their devices, without adequately informing them, nor providing them [with] an effective way to recover the full functionality of their devices,” the AGCM said. The updates “caused serious malfunctions and significantly reduced their performance, in this way speeding up their replacement with more recent products.”

Samsung “insistently suggested” that owners of its Note 4 phone install a new version of Google’s Android operating system intended for the Note 7, the ACGM said.

But that was “without informing them of the serious malfunctions that the new firmware could cause due to greater stress of [the] device’s hardware and asking a high repair cost for out-of-warranty repairs connected to such malfunctions”.

Meanwhile Apple “insistently suggested” that iPhone 6 owners install an operating system designed for the iPhone 7, “without warning consumers that its installation could reduce the speed of execution and functionality of devices”.

A Samsung statement said it would appeal the fine.The ACGM said Apple “did not offer any specific support measures for iPhones that had experienced such operating problems and were no longer covered by the legal warranty”. Apple only offered a discounted battery replacement in December 2017.

Apple faces a class-action suit in the United States and a string of lawsuits in Russia about slow phones.  — AFP

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