PARIS (AFP) – Paris prosecutors have launched a probe of US tech giant Apple over suspected “planned obsolescence” in some of its iPhone models, a judicial source told AFP on Monday.
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It comes after a complaint by the association Stop Planned Obsolescence (HOP or Halte a l’Obsolescence Programmee) that followed Apple’s admission last month that it intentionally slowed down older models of its iPhones over time.
The investigation into possible “planned obsolescence” or “fraud” was opened on Friday and is being led by anti-trust and consumer protection specialists in the French economy ministry, the source said.
When contacted by AFP, Apple France gave no comment on the matter.
Planned obsolescence is a widely criticised commercial practice in which manufacturers build in the expiry of their products so that consumers will be forced to replace them.
It is decried by consumer groups as being unethical and is suspected of being particularly prevalent in the electronics industry, which produces mountains of unrecyclable waste each year.
To tackle the problem, France passed landmark legislation in 2015 known as “Hamon’s law” which made the practice illegal and – in theory – obliged retailers to say whether replacement parts were available.
The law, named after former Socialist minister Benoit Hamon, stipulates that a company found to be deliberately shortening the life of its products can be fined up to five percent of its annual sales while executives can face up to two years in jail.
HOP praised the decision of French authorities to dig into Apple’s practices.
“It is the first criminal procedure in the world against a company on the basis of planned obsolescence,” Emile Meunier, a lawyer for the group, told AFP.