Dec. 28 (UPI) — Apple is facing a criminal lawsuit in France after confirming it has been deliberately slowing down older iPhones to offset problems with its lithium battery.

A French activist group, Stop Planned Obsolescence, which is Halte à l’Obsolescence Programmée in French, filed a criminal lawsuit Wednesday in the Paris prosecutor’s office against the tech giant. The maximum penalty is a prison sentence of two years and a fine up to $358,000 and 5 percent of the company’s annual revenue.

If prosecutors decide the complaint is legitimate, the case will be heard in criminal court.

“It is our mission to defend customers and the environment against this waste organized by Apple,” cofounder Laetitia Vasseur of the group said in a statement.

According to a French law enacted in 2015, companies are not allowed to “deliberately reduce the lifespan of a product to increase the rate of replacement.”

“It has been several years that slowdowns are noted by Apple customers just at the time of the release of a new model,” Emile Meunier, the lawyer of the association, said. “Why this silence all these years? Why this slowdown at the time of the release of the new model? Why this phenomenon is not encountered at other manufacturers, like Samsung? These are the questions that the criminal investigation will answer.”

HOP earlier sued Japanese printer maker Epson for allegedly deliberately limiting the lifespan of its machines and the case is being heard in court.

Several civil suits have been filed in the United States,

In New York, five iPhone users filed a lawsuit in New York on Tuesday and are seeking class-action status, according to The Verge. Earlier, lawsuits were filed by four owners in Chicago and two in Los Angeles, USA Today reported.

In the Chicago suit, plaintiffs ask for $5 million in damages on behalf of four customers, “because tens of thousands of similarly situated putative class members.”

These iPhone owners said if they had known their batteries were to blame for the slowdown, they would have replaced the battery instead of buying a new phone.

Last week, Apple confirmed the slowdown after a report from Primate Labs explained the slowdown. John Poole, founder of the organization, posted on a blog that processors in iPhones slow down and decrease in performance as batteries age and lose capacity.

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