The initial complaint was made by the Halt Planned Obsolescence (HOP) group, prompting an investigation in France.
HOP’s claim is that Apple is undertaking a practice called pairing, where the serial numbers of components are identified by the device. This allows iPhones’ software to recognise when an unofficial replacement part has been used.
The complaint cites the example of an iPhone XR with a replacement touchscreen that stops working when the phone is updated from iOS 15 to iOS 16.
This suggests you could be left with a dead iPhone or iPad some time after repairing it, with no recourse from either the original third-party repairer or Apple.
“If Apple wishes to obstruct independent repair and the development of reconditioning, justice must stand in the way of these anachronistic, irresponsible and illegal practices,” says HOP co-founder Laëtitia Vasseur in a translated statement.
Can you repair an iPhone?
The leading charge is that these practices undermine the “right to repair,” legislation for which was introduced in the UK in 2021.
Apple launched its Self Service Repair initiative in the UK in December 2022. Its aim is to let people purchase official replacement parts, and the tools required to do various common repair jobs.
This is not an iFixit-like service aimed at the average iPhone owner, though. Tools that can be purchased from Apple’s repair portal include a $216 (£172) Display Press and a $246 (£196) Heated Display Removal Fixture. This is a machine that heats up the display to loosen the glue that firmly holds the screen in place.
Meanwhile, iFixit will sell you a £31.99 heat gun to do the job in a DIY style. It even suggests buying a hair dryer from Amazon instead. However, as iFixit does not have access to Apple-made parts, will its replacement components continue to work in a year’s time?
This is not the first time matters relating to planned obsolescence have affected iPhones. Apple was fined £21 million in 2020 by the French fraud watchdog DGCCRF. It agreed to pay $113m (£90m) in the US in the same year, to settle an investigation in what came to be known as “batterygate”.
iPhone performance was throttled as the battery aged. This was interpreted by users as a nudge to get them to upgrade. Apple claims it was intended to prolong the life of the phone by avoiding it conking out too early in the day. The company admitted doing this in 2017.
We have approached Apple for comment on the French investigation into its repair practices.