The blowback over Apple slowing down iPhones just keeps coming.
Sen. John Thune, R-South Dakota, on Tuesday sent Apple a letter with questions about a software update that helped prevent unexpected battery shutdowns in older iPhone models but reduced their speed, according to multiple media outlets that have read the yet-to-be-released letter.
Thune's inquiry came hours after news that an anti-fraud watchdog agency in France began an investigation last week into whether Apple committed "planned obsolescence," or deliberately slowing down iPhones to pressure consumers to upgrade. Planned obsolescence is illegal in France, and if found guilty, Apple faces hefty fines and its employees possible jail terms.
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Thune, who heads the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, wrote to Apple CEO Tim Cook that regardless of intention, the lack of transparency by the company was a reason for his questioning.
"However, even if Apple's actions were indeed only intended to avoid unexpected shutdowns on older phones, the large volume of consumer criticism leveled against the company in light of its admission suggests that there should have been better transparency with respect to these practices," wrote Thune, according to Recode.
In his letter, Thune demanded to know whether similar slowdown features were used on older devices such as the iPhone 5. He also asked if Apple plans to release similar software updates in newer models in the future and if so, how Apple plans to be transparent with customers, according to Recode.
Since Dec. 20, when Apple admitted to slowing down iPhones, the company has been under a steady international barrage of criticism. Numerous lawsuits against Apple have been filed in the United States, Israel and South Korea.
On Dec. 28, Apple apologized -- but said it never deliberately slowed down iPhones to force customers to upgrade.
"First and foremost, we have never -- and would never -- do anything to intentionally shorten the life of any Apple product, or degrade the user experience to drive customer upgrades," Apple said in a statement. "Our goal has always been to create products that our customers love, and making iPhones last as long as possible is an important part of that."
Apple announced in the same statement that it will discount out-of-warranty battery replacements from $79 to $29 until this December and will offer a software update which will allow iPhone owners to check the battery's health for themselves.
Thune wanted to know more about Apple's battery replacement ideas, according to Reuters. Thune asked if Apple considered making battery replacements free and if it considered offering rebates to customers who paid the full $79 for battery replacements.
Thune asked Apple to answer his questions by Jan. 23.
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