Italy's anti-trust opens probe into Apple, Samsung phone complaints

ROME (Reuters) - Italy’s antitrust body said on Thursday it had opened a probe into allegations that Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd used software updates to slow their mobile phones and push clients into buying new handsets.

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The watchdog said in a statement that the two companies had not told clients that the updates might have a negative impact on the performance of their phones.

It said the U.S. and South Korean firms might have infringed four separate articles of the national consumers’ code. If found guilty, the two companies risk multi-million euro fines.

Apple and Samsung are suspected of orchestrating “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”, the watchdog said.

There was no immediate comment from either company.

Apple acknowledged last month that iPhone software had the effect of slowing down some phones with battery problems, but denied that it had ever done anything to intentionally shorten the life of a product.

The firm apologized for its actions and cut battery replacement costs. It has also said it would change its software to show users whether their phone batteries were working well.

Samsung’s software updates for its phones have not previously been questioned.

Lawsuits have been filed against Apple in California, New York and Illinois alleging the company defrauded users by slowing down devices without warning.

The company also faces a legal complaint in France, where so-called “planned obsolescence” is against the law.

Reporting by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Richard Balmforth