An Italian investigation into tech giants Samsung and Apple has led to both companies being fined for intentionally slowing down older versions of their smartphones. Samsung has been fined €5m ($5.7m) and Apple €10m ($11.4m) marking the first ruling of its kind against a tech company for planned obsolescence.
The Italian Competition Authorities began the investigation into the firms in January 2018 to attest whether their smartphone software updates where causing older phones to perform worse in an effort to encourage customers to upgrade their phones quicker.
In a scathing statement, the watchdog said: "Apple and Samsung implemented dishonest commercial practices." The body also mentioned that the software updates which were supposed to bring about improvements in the devices instead "caused serious malfunctions and significantly reduced performance, thus accelerating phones' substitution".
The Italian investigation, which was launched at the same time as a French investigation into the same issue, followed a barrage of complaints from European customers. Both companies have been handed the maximum fine by Italian courts, but the French investigation is yet to conclude. French law prohibits the intentional shortening of the life of a product and has to power to fine of up to 5% of annual turnover or even jail time for the crime.
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Apple was also fined a further €5m as it failed to give its customers what the court deemed "essential" information regarding its lithium batteries. Other than the software updates which degraded batteries, information such as average life expectancy, maintenance and replacement of batteries where never provided to customers.
Apple both admitted and apologized for shortening the lives of its smartphones in December of last year. It claimed it did it in order to avoid sudden shutdown problems, not to shorten its product's life.
Samsung on the other hand maintains that it has done nothing wrong and prior to this decision had never been questioned about its updates.
The company expressed disappointment at the ruling with a spokesperson for the company commenting to The Guardian: "Samsung 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."
Along with the fines, both companies will now have to display a notification of the ruling on their websites