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French government investigates planned obsolescence allegations amidst iPhone slowdown controversy

The French government is reportedly investigating a recent private complaint against Apple, which charges that the company's decision to slow down iPhones with weak batteries is a form of planned obsolescence meant to sell new hardware.

The investigation was initiated on Friday, and is being led by the DGCCRF anti-fraud agency, according to a judicial source cited by Reuters. Action began because of a legal complaint by consumer association Halte l'Obsolescence Programme, or Stop Planned Obsolescence in English.

HOP first filed a criminal lawsuit against Apple in December, saying its goal is to "defend customers and the environment against this waste organized by Apple." In France it's illegal to intentionally shorten the lifespan of a device, and the company could conceivably face fines and/or prison sentences.

Apple admitted to slowing down old iPhones on Dec. 20, and has since been hit with a barrage of legal actions worldwide. The company has defended its strategy as necessary to protect devices from sudden shutdowns, which could damage electronics.

Plaintiffs and other critics have claimed that intentionally or not, Apple's policy makes people more liable to buy new iPhones. Older models will often have trouble with newer apps and iOS updates.

In response to early public outcry, Apple issued an apology and began selling $29 out-of-warranty battery replacements, down temporarily from $79. The company is also working on a software update that will provide more details on battery health.