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Targeting Apple for Designing Slow-Down into iPhones, Small French Consumer Group Punches Above Its Weight

Government launches official probe after it was revealed that iPhones were constructed with "planned obsolescence"

In this photo illustration a woman holds an Apple mobile phone iPhone 5 on the screen of which we can see the battery charge indicator on December 23, 2017 in Paris, France. Apple has admitted that it was clamping the processors of old iPhone at certain stages of their life cycles, to deliberately slow down the performance of batteries of older models of iPhone. (Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images)

Backed by a unique law in France that bars companies from intentionally designing products to fail or diminish over time, a small consumer-advocacy group called "Stop Planned Obsolesence" is putting tech giant Apple in its cross hairs after it was recently revealed that batteries inside the company's iconic iPhones are programmed to produce diminished power after only several years of use.

On Monday, French prosecutors announced the opening of a probe into suspected fraud by Apple in the wake of a complaint by the group—known by its French acronym HOP—which accused the U.S.-based company of cheating costumers unaware of the flaws intentionally built into the phones.

The opening of the government probe is "is a first victory for consumers," the head of HOP, Samual Sauvage, told Agence France-Presse in an interview on Tuesday. "The opening of an investigation shows that the evidence is sufficiently solid," Sauvage said. "It's a positive sign from the prosecutor's office."

Sauvage said his group—powered by volunteers and just one full-time employee—specifically worries that like other tech companies, Apple's business model is based on creating wasteful products that manufacturers prefer to have replaced with new (more expensive) models as opposed to creating ones that can be updated or repaired. The group's goal, he said, is "consumer revolution and a change in company behaviour so that they think about a consumption model that is more environmentally friendly."

According to AFP:

Apple has declined to comment on the probe while the French prosecutor's office will now have to determine whether there are grounds to bring charges -- a process that is expected to be lengthy and possibly fruitless.

The company denies incorporating planned obsolescence in its products in a bid to nudge customers into upgrading their phones.

It has admitted slowing its flagship iPhones phones down, but says this was intended to extend their battery life.

Despite denials mixed with explanations about how and why it did so, Jay McGregor reported for Forbes that Apple "will likely have a lot of PR work"  to do following the revelations about the iPhones batteries. "The news," wrote McGregor last month, "confirms long-held fears that Apple slows down old devices and has likely reached most non-savvy technology consumers, but the explanation for why it slows down devices may have been lost as the news has filtered down."

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