An Australian consumer watchdog has started legal proceedings against Apple over claims that the company refused to service devices that had been repaired by a third party.
Proceedings were brought against Apple Australia and U.S. parent company Apple Inc. on behalf of 275 different customers, who claim that Apple routinely refused to examine and/or service devices that were disabled with an ‘Error 53’ message.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is a statutory authority tasked with upholding regulations and promoting competition for the benefit of Australian consumers. The ACCC brought a case against Apple for refusing to service devices that show the ‘Error 53’ message.
‘Error 53’ affects devices that have been serviced by a third party, particularly the Touch ID or other components related to the fingerprint recognition feature of the device. Users who have had these components replaced or serviced by a third party may perform a system update and receive the ‘Error 53’ message. Those users will find the device is locked, and the error may be terminal, in effect ‘bricking’ the device.
The ACCC is arguing that a company cannot extinguish consumer rights just because a third party has repaired the goods in question.
In a statement, ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said, “Denying a consumer their consumer guarantee rights simply because they had chosen a third party repairer not only impacts those consumers but can dissuade other customers from making informed choices about their repair options including where they may be offered at lower cost than the manufacturer.”
He went on to clarify that consumer rights extend to software, and to software updates, and that faults with software or updates may entitle customers to seek a remedy under Australian Consumer Law. This is applicable as the Error 53 message tends to lock down a device immediately upon the installation of an operating system update.
Refusal to assist a consumer in this manner may be found to violate Australian consumer regulations including the Competition and Consumer Act of 2010, and could carry a fine of up to $1.1 million AUD per breach. The ACCC is seeking penalties, injunctions, compliance orders, corrective notices, and costs from Apple.
According to the Apple U.S. website, Error 53 occurs when a device fails a security test, and an update in iOS 9.3 will allow a device to be successfully restored to working condition after an Error 53 message.