French prosecutor launches probe into Apple planned obsolescence: judicial source

PARIS (Reuters) - A French prosecutor has launched a preliminary investigation of U.S. tech giant Apple AAPL.O over alleged deception and planned obsolescence of its products following a complaint by a consumer organization, a judicial source said on Monday.

FILE PHOTO - An Apple iPhone 7 and the company logo are seen in this illustration picture taken in Bordeaux, France on February 1, 2017. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau/File Photo

The investigation, opened on Friday, will be led by French consumer fraud watchdog DGCCRF, part of the Economy Ministry, the source said.

Apple acknowledged last month that it takes some measures to reduce power demands - which can have the effect of slowing the processor - in some older iPhone models when a phone’s battery is having trouble supplying the peak current that the processor demands.

The French watchdog’s preliminary investigation could take months, and depending on its findings, the case could be dropped or handed to a judge for an in-depth investigation.

Under French law, companies risk fines of up to 5 percent of their annual sales for deliberately shortening the life of their products to spur demand to replace them.

An Apple spokeswoman in the United States declined to comment on the French investigation, pointing to a Dec. 28 statement in which the company apologized over its handling of the battery issue and said it would never do anything to intentionally shorten the life of any Apple product.

An Apple spokesman in France could not immediately be reached for comment.

A French consumer association called “HOP” -- standing for “Stop Planned Obsolescence” -- filed a legal complaint against Apple.

Apple already faces lawsuits in the United States over accusations of defrauding iPhone users by slowing down devices without warning to compensate for poor battery performance.

Apple also said on Dec. 28 it was slashing prices for battery replacements and would change its software to show users whether their phone battery was good.

Reporting by Yann Le Guernigou; Additional reporting by Stephen Nellis in San Francisco; Writing by Bate Felix; Editing by Adrian Croft