Italian watchdog hits Apple, Samsung with fines over planned obsolescence

A ding to public perception

Why it matters: Financially speaking, Italy's penalties against Apple
and Samsung are trivial at best. The real damage could be in public
perception and trust although honestly, both companies have endured
worse and came out virtually unscathed.

Italy’s competition authority has fined Apple and Samsung 5 million
euros ($5.7 million) each over claims of planned obsolescence. Apple was
smacked with an additional 5 million euro fine for failing to provide
customers with information about essential characteristics of the
batteries in their phones and how to care for them.

Both companies will also be required to post a notice on their Italian
portals informing visitors of the Authority's decision and link to the
assessment order.

The AGCM found Apple and Samsung guilty of “unfair commercial practices”
in violation with local laws relating to the release of firmware
updates for mobile devices that “caused serious malfunctions and
significantly reduced performance, thereby accelerating the process of
replacing them.”

Specifically, the AGCM said insistent requests were made by
manufacturers for consumers to download and install updates on devices
that were not able to adequately support them and provided no means of
restoring original functionality.

The claim against Apple refers specifically to iPhone 6 and iPhone
6s-class devices being upgraded to iOS 10, which it said was developed
for the iPhone 7. In Samsung’s case, the watchdog said customers who
purchased the Galaxy Note 4 were solicited to install a version of
Android (Marshmallow) that shipped on the Note 7.

Apple last year admitted that it used software updates to smooth out
peak current demands on devices with older batteries to prevent
unexpected shutdowns. Many saw this as proof that Apple had indeed been
conducting planned obsolescence, or taking steps to intentionally slow
down aging hardware in hopes of convincing users to replace said devices
with newer, faster models.

Apple has not commented on the Italian watchdog’s fine as of this
writing. A spokesperson for Samsung told The Guardian that the company
did not issue any software update that reduced the Galaxy Note 4’s
performance. “In contrast, Samsung has always released software updates
enabling our customers to have the best experience possible,” the
spokesperson added.

Samsung plans to appeal the fine.

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