UPDATED with Apple statement, 11:16 AM: The U.S. Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission are investigating whether Apple violated securities laws in how it disclosed information about software updates that slowed older iPhones, according to published reports.
Apple acknowledged in a statement (read it below) that it’s responding to questions from government agencies, after Reuters first reported the probe. But a spokesperson also referenced an earlier statement that it would never “do anything to intentionally shorten the life of any Apple product or degrade the user experience.”
Consumers responded angrily last year when reports revealed that Apple deliberately was slowing older generations of iPhone through its periodic updates to the phone’s software. Some filed suit. The company issued a rare public apology in December, saying it took these steps to prevent phones with degraded batteries from randomly shutting down.
Apple tried to make amends by offering to replace aging iPhone batteries for $29, instead of the usual $79 fee. It has also promised to include a new feature in its next operating system update that lets users check the health of their iPhone’s battery.
This acknowledgement produced further backlash, with more than 30 suits filed in the U.S. alone, and government officials like Sen. John Thune (R-SD) singling out Apple for criticism.
“Even 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 these practices,” Thune wrote in a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook.
In an interview with ABC News, Cook acknowledged the controversy when he said “maybe we should have been clearer” in communicating with consumers.
Spokespeople for Justice Department and SEC declined comment on the reports.
Apple issued this statement:
“About a year ago, we delivered a software update that improves power management during peak workloads to avoid unexpected shutdowns on certain iPhones with older batteries. We know that iPhones have become an important part of the daily lives of our customers and our intention was to improve the customer experience.
We sought to further improve the customer experience in December by announcing a significant discount on replacement batteries for certain iPhones. We also announced that we began developing a new iOS feature to show battery health and which would recommend when the user should consider replacing their battery. These actions were taken to further assist our customers and help extend the life of their iPhones. In addition, users will be able to see if the power management feature is being used to prevent unexpected shutdowns, and turn it off if they so choose. These features will be included in a developer release next month and a user release this Spring.
As we told our customers in December, 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. Our goal has always been to create products that our customers love. Making iPhones last as long as possible is an important part of that.
We have received questions from some government agencies and we are responding to them.”