Israel opens investigation against Apple for slowing down iPhones

Local chief questioned by authorities, who suspect company may have violated Israeli law

Illustrative: An iPhone 7 Plus is displayed on September 16, 2016, in Madrid, Spain. (Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images via JTA)
Illustrative: An iPhone 7 Plus is displayed on September 16, 2016, in Madrid, Spain. (Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images via JTA)

Israeli authorities announced Tuesday they have launched an investigation into Apple for allegedly breaching its duty toward users, by failing to disclose that supposedly innocent software updates would slow the performance of older model iPhones.

Rony Friedman, CEO of Apple Israel, was questioned Tuesday at the offices of the Consumer Protection and Fair Trade Authority, a government agency that is part of the Economy Ministry, Hebrew-language media reported.

The step came after the electronics giant disclosed in December that it provided software updates that slowed older phones in order to make aging batteries last longer.

Following numerous complaints by users who said their iPhones performed worse after updates, Apple announced at the time that the updates were meant to fix irregularities in the phones’ power usage and to prevent sudden phone shutdowns.

The iPhones affected are iPhone 6, iPhone 6s, iPhone SE and iPhone 7.

The Consumer Protection Authority suspects that Apple did not provide customers with “essential” information on the software updates. Apple may have thus violated Israeli law regarding misdirection of customers.

In December, a week after Apple’s disclosure, a $125 million class action lawsuit was filed in Tel Aviv on the heels of at least four similar lawsuits filed in the United States. Lawsuits filed in the United States charged that when faced with the slowdown, consumers concluded that they had to buy new and more expensive iPhones.

The Israeli class action lawsuit stated that users are entirely dependent on Apple’s judgment regarding their use of the operating system and the cellphone, according to the website Patently Apple.

It accused Apple of breaching its basic duties toward users by failing to disclose that software updates would have negative implications on their phone use. It said that the software updates impaired consumers’ ability to browse the web, check email and use various applications, and that consumers should have been made aware of the potential slowdowns before downloading the updates to the operating system.

The lawsuit also accused Apple of having “a clear interest in hiding the information from users because it would prefer they replace old iPhones with new ones as soon as possible.”

JTA contributed to this report.

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