Sen. Thune Questions Apple on iPhone Slowdown

Photographer: Xaume Olleros/Bloomberg

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, sent a letter yesterday to Apple Inc. CEO Tim Cook, asking for details about the company’s slowing of iPhones and handling of consumer complaints.

Apple acknowledged in December it slowed older iPhones’ performance through a software update to prevent unexpected shutdowns of weakened batteries. The announcement fed years of speculation that Apple slows older phones to drive sales of new models.

Thune’s questions, which follow French prosecutors’ announcement that they will conduct a criminal investigation of Apple, show the problem is hardly over for the tech giant despite its discount offerings for new batteries.

The chairman, whose committee oversees consumer protection issues, asked Apple if it had considered offering free battery replacements for customers, or rebates to those who had already replaced batteries.

“If Apple’s actions were indeed only intended to avoid unexpected shutdowns in 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 those practices,” Thune wrote.

A spokesperson from Apple did not immediately respond to a Bloomberg Law request for comment.

The company Dec. 28 issued an apology for the “misunderstanding” about the battery issue, and said it would reduce the price to purchase out-of-warranty iPhone battery replacements from $79 to $29 for a limited time.