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French prosecutors said Tuesday they are investigating technology giant Apple for violating an innovative new law on planned obsolescence, which could lead to a criminal conviction and have international repercussions.

The Paris prosecutor’s office said it was investigating the company for alleged “deception and planned obsolescence” in some models of its flagship smartphone line, the iPhone.

The investigation was set in motion after Apple admitted in late December that it deliberately slows down some older models of the iPhone as their batteries age.

The admission led consumer rights group Stop Planned Obsolescence (abbreviated in French as HOP) to file a complaint, arguing the company had effectively confessed to breaking French law.

“We have reason to believe that Apple is doing planned obsolescence, which means it has a strategy to make iPhones slower to make people buy new ones,” says Laetitia Vasseur, the group’s president and cofounder.

First test of a landmark law

In 2015, France passed a law banning planned obsolescence, which refers to controversial commercial practices whereby manufacturers build in the expiry of their products so that consumers are forced to replace them.

The law grew out of efforts of groups like HOP, which argues that such practices are unethical and also environmentally unsound, especially in the electronics industry, which produces a lot of unrecyclable waste.

“It’s a social issue, because people don’t want to buy products that were made to break,” Vasseur says. “Secondly, we think it’s a big environmental issue, because it makes a lot of pollution and waste.”

To date, prosecutors have opened one other investigation under the new law, an inquiry launched last month into whether Japanese printer maker Epson forces consumers to buy new ink cartridges before the old ones are empty.

But the investigation into Apple, which will involve complex legal and technical analyses to determine whether the iPhone slowing really breaks the law, will be seen as its more significant test. Read More …