The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has filed a lawsuit against Apple for refusing to fix iPhones and iPads it bricked after owners took them to third-parties for repairs.
The suit alleges that Apple bricked the devices of Australian customers between September 2014 and February 2016 through software updates. The documents mention the Error 53 problem – which first appeared in 2015 – that affected thousands of iPhone 6 handsets. The phones had been taken to non-Apple technicians who carried out screen or Touch ID module repairs, which in turn caused the devices to fail Apple’s security checks and become expensive paperweights.
When asked to repair the bricked products, customers were told that "no Apple entity ... was required to, or would, provide a remedy" for free. Essentially, Apple says that if a third-party carries out repairs, it doesn’t have to honor warranties, even those that are part of the AppleCare extended warranty program.
"It's fair to say we haven't observed similar behavior by other manufacturers," ACCC chairman Rod Sims said in a statement. “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 a lower cost than the manufacturer.”
The regulator said Apple engaged in "misleading or deceptive conduct and made false or misleading representations to consumers" regarding how its software updates affects devices.
The ACCC is seeking pecuniary penalties, injunctions, declarations, compliance program orders, corrective notices, and costs.
A US class action lawsuit was brought against Apple over the Error 53 issue last year, but was thrown out due to the plaintiff’s "lack of standing to pursue injunctive relief."