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Italy's antitrust authority has opened an investigation into claims that Apple and Samsung have used software updates to hobble phones and encourage consumers to upgrade hardware.
It's the latest sign of trouble for Apple over the power-management feature it introduced in iOS 10.2 and again in iOS 11 to counter unexpected shutdowns on iPhones with aged batteries.
In January, French prosecutors opened a probe over the battery-slowdown controversy, which is now being handled by France's competition and consumer protection authority, the DGCCRF.
Reuters reports that Apple and Samsung face multimillion euro fines if they're found guilty of infringing four separate articles of Italy's consumers' code.
The Italian authority said the two smartphone makers are suspected of engaging in "a general commercial policy taking advantage of the lack of certain components to curb the performance times of their products and induce consumers to buy new versions".
In a statement, the watchdog said the two companies pushed software updates to phones "without reporting the possible consequences" of the update and without information to maintain the performance they were promoted as having when they were sold.
Late last year, Apple admitted the existence of an iOS power management feature after a Geekbench test found a connection between iPhone performance and battery age while investigating a post from a Reddit user, who had found that an iPhone became faster after replacing the battery.
Apple now faces dozens of class action lawsuits in the US for degrading the performance of iPhones. The number of lawsuits has swelled from 32 a fortnight ago to 45 in the US today, according to Patently Apple.
To appease angry consumers, Apple announced it would replace iPhone batteries for $29 instead of the usual $79. The class actions have piled up despite Apple's attempt to placate the public.
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Now a South Korean consumer group has filed a criminal complaint against Apple CEO Tim Cook over the issue, Reuters reported today. The Citizens United for Consumer Sovereignty accused Apple of destruction of property and fraud.
Apple is also planning a software update that will provide more transparency about the condition of an iPhone's battery, and will let consumers switch off the performance management feature -- even if it leads to more unexpected shutdowns.
Cook explained the feature in an interview with ABC World News Tonight yesterday.
"We will tell somebody we are reducing the performance by some amount in order not to have an unexpected restart and if you don't want it, you can turn it off," he said.
"Now, we don't recommend it because we think that people's iPhones are really important to them, and you never can tell when something is so urgent and so, our actions were all in service of the user... Maybe we should have been clearer at a point in time but our actions were always the purest."
Previous and related coverage
More lawsuits land at Apple's feet over its decision to slow down iPhones with older batteries.
In a recent interview, Apple CEO Tim Cook acknowledged the company should have been clearer with iPhone owners.
Apple's response to being caught throttling older iPhones has been shockingly bad.
Users will be able to opt out of the feature that slows iPhones when the battery is low.
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