Representatives from Apple Canada appeared voluntarily before a Canadian Parliamentary Committee yesterday to respond to the recent scandal surrounding the slowing down of older iPhone models, the CBC reports. Answering questions from House of Commons’ standing committee on industry, science, and technology, Apple’s Canadian manager of legal and government affairs, Jacqueline Famulak, maintained that Apple did not intend for customers to think that it was being secretive regarding the reasons behind the slowing down of older iPhones. While Apple has continued to maintain that it made the decision to avoid unexpected shutdowns and thereby extend the life of older iPhone models, many consumers have accused Apple of a deliberate attempt to push customers to upgrade to newer iPhone models.
Famulak stressed to the committee that the lack of communication was “not intentional” and that Apple doesn’t believe it “miscommunicated anything at any time” and that the reason the company apologized was “because our consumers didn’t hear [about it] directly from us.” Throughout her testimony, Famulak maintained that Apple had not concealed its software policy from consumers, pointing to language in the iOS 10.2.1 release notes and adding that “Apple would never intentionally do anything to shorten the life of any Apple product or degrade the user experience in order to drive customer upgrades,” and that “The sole purpose of the software update in this case was to help customers to continue to use older iPhones with aging batteries without shutdowns – not to drive them to buy newer devices.” Famulak’s statements echoed Apple CEO Tim Cook’s apology from earlier this year, where he acknowledged that while Apple did disclose what they were doing, but that he didn’t think “a lot of people were paying attention” and Apple itself “should have been clearer as well.”
One member of the committee, Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, a former commercial litigation lawyer and current Member of Parliament, also asked Apple Canada to disclose “any internal communications, opinions or advice given to Apple Canada or its American parent company” regarding whether Apple should have gone public with the source of the iPhone performance problems. Apple’s lawyer, Simon Potter, declined to do so voluntary, adding that “If the committee wants to make a direction about things, we’ll reconsider. But the fact is, as people here know, Apple is exposed to a number of class actions in the United States.”
The committee also heard from John Poole of Toronto’s Primate Labs, the developer of Geekbench and one of the people who first uncovered the slowdown issue back in December, who according to VentureBeat expressed a more balanced opinion of Apple’s intentions, noting that the issue does not appear to affect Canadian iPhones differently from U.S. ones, and that he believes that Apple’s explanation that it was slowing devices to maintain stability makes sense, but added that he did consider Apple’s lack of transparency to be an issue, and that consumers shouldn’t have “reasonably expected” that their devices would get slower over time due to battery issues.
While a parliamentary committee hearing is primarily an inquiry, the associate deputy commissioner with Canada’s Competition Bureau, Alexa Gendron-O’Donnell, was also present, and weighted in on the state of consumer protection laws in Canada, although she noted that the bureau as a law enforcement agency cannot comment on ongoing investigations, although she emphasized that companies operating in Canada are required to comply with Canadian law, including the Competition Act.