Australian Regulator Sues Apple over Hardware Repair Practices on iPhones

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission sued Apple for allegedly disabling iPhones and iPads that had received repairs by unauthorized third parties. Apparently, Apple disabled hundreds of iPhones and iPads last year.

Following an update to iOS 9 last year, certain iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus units were bricked after the Touch ID button was repaired by unauthorized third-party services. When the device stopped working, they would show an “error 53” message.

The error appeared when the Touch ID module or screen had received third-party repairs or were replaced by firms operating outside of Apple’s Authorized Service Provider network.

The lawsuit regards iPhones and iPads that were bricked by error 53 between September 2014 and February 2016, as Apple refused to service these defective units, as they were no longer eligible for Apple warranty coverage. “Consumer guarantee rights under the Australian Consumer Law exist independently of any manufacturers warranty and are not extinguished simply because a consumer has goods repaired by a third party,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.

Apple was slapped with a similar lawsuit in the US

Last year, Apple acknowledged the issue and stated that the error message was connected to the Touch ID security, being a result of security checks put in place to protect customers. Apple is known to perform routine Touch ID module checks and automatically disable Touch ID sensors that fail these tests.

Consumers in the US were also displeased with Apple’s “error 53” and the decision to brick certain iPhones and iPads. Several customers from the country filed a class-action lawsuit against Apple, but the suit was eventually thrown out for lack of standing. Eventually, Apple rolled out a patch that allowed owners of affected iPhone and iPad units to update their devices to iOS 9.2.1 by connecting to iTunes over a Mac or PC.

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Nevertheless, the ACCC is now seeking penalties, injunctions, declarations, compliance program orders, corrective notices and costs in the lawsuit against Apple.

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