Apple, Samsung face antitrust probe in Italy over planned obsolescence claims

Apple's confirmation that it slows older iPhones with aging lithium-ion batteries kicked off a round of severe criticism around the world, with many tossing around accusations of planned obsolescence, among other things. Following that is a new probe opened by Italy's antitrust authority involving both Apple and Samsung. According to the organization, user complaints spurred the probe.

The announcement was made by the Autorità Garante della Concorrenza e del Mercato, which said on its website that it has decided to investigate "unfair commercial practices" allegedly carried out by Apple and Samsung. This investigation is the result of "consumer reports and pre-trial activity," according to the organization, which points directly to concerns about deliberately reduced phone performance.

Consumers in the country are accusing both companies of engaging in planned obsolescence by deliberately slowing down phones using software updates. This, the allegations put forth, is done to force customers to buy new handsets sooner than they may otherwise choose to do so.

Among the potential issue is the possibility that these companies are pushing out the updates without warning that they slow down phone performance. Assuming it finds that these activities are taking place in such a manner, the agency says it is possible the companies could be violating multiple Consumer Codes.

Apple's reason for slowing some iPhones revolves around the limitation of li-ion batteries, which experience a decreased peak voltage as they get older. That lower voltage means the phones could spontaneously shutdown during demanding usage, among other things. Slowing the phones eliminates that issue by ensuring the peak demands don't exceed the battery's peak voltage.

Apple has denied that slowing the phones is a planned obsolescence conspiracy to increase phone sales, as some have accused it of. Samsung has previously said that it does not similarly slow down its older phones, but Italy's antitrust organization is proceeding with an investigation against it regardless.