Planned obsolescence: Apple sued for deliberately slowing down iPhones in Belgium

Planned obsolescence: Apple sued for deliberately slowing down iPhones in Belgium
Credit: Belga

Since Apple launched updates to its iPhone 6 models knowing that they would lead to slowdowns, performance degradation and even unexpected shutdowns, Belgian consumer protection organisation Test Achats has been fighting the planned obsolescence practices.

The American multinational aimed to encourage iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 6S and 6S Plus users to buy a new device with its updates to the iOS operating system in 2017, said Test Achats. In 2020, it took the case to court as part of a class action. Now, it wants to continue this fight and break the deadlock in the proceedings.

"When we think of the programmed obsolescence of a product, we often think of poor-quality parts or the impossibility of repairing a product to encourage consumers to replace it," explained Test-Achats. "However, planned obsolescence can also be organised through software."

This is exactly what Apple did in 2017 with discrete software updates for its iPhone 6 models, the organisation said. These updates had a major impact on the smartphones' performance level.

Taking Apple to court

Users were not informed of this, even though these updates led to a significant slowdown in the phones' operation, a drop in performance and sometimes even unexpected shutdowns. For Test Achats, Apple's aim was clear: to encourage users to buy a new device or battery.

In the United States, Apple agreed to a $500 million settlement to compensate consumers to avert a looming class action. In Italy, Apple was also convicted at first instance, but that decision was overturned on appeal.

Having analysed the Italian situation and Apple's procedural arguments so far in Belgium, Test Achats has also restarted the proceedings and intends to pursue them to the end.

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Even though the Belgian legal system "encourages delays," the organisation stressed that it wants to move forward with the case. A procedural reform is now being submitted to the Federal Parliament, so the proceedings can run more effectively and, above all, faster.

Since the launch of the action in 2020, some 6,300 people have voluntarily registered. Ahead of the next phase of the process (preparation of the admissibility file and pleadings, probably in June), the registration form will remain online for a few more weeks here.

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