Apple Fined Millions by Australian Court Over False iPhone 'Error 53' Claims

Josh Miller  CNET

Thanks to a 14-hour time difference between Australia and NY, it was Tuesday morning in Australia when a Federal Court in that country ordered Apple to pay a $9 million fine.

Then, in June 2017, the ACCC conducted an undercover operation involving 13 calls with Apple retailers in Australia, in which Apple representatives allegedly said Apple did not have responsibility to remedy faulty iPhones repaired by an unauthorised third party.

The case, initiated by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) in April a year ago, concerned users of iPhones and iPads who complained about "error 53", which bricked some devices after they updated their iOS.

The error disabled some iPhones and iPads after consumers updated Apple's iOS operating system.

At least 275 Australian consumers were alleged to have been misled after Apple informed them they were no longer entitled to remedies, like a fix or replacement, if their device had been repaired by an unauthorised third party.

A number of complaints arose after iPhone and iPad users downloaded an iOS update, which left the device useless and reporting an "error 53".

ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court said this was a direct violation of consumer rights in Australia.

But that's not now Australian Consumer Law works.

The case also followed the ACCC accepting a court-enforceable undertaking from Apple back in 2014, following an investigation into the iPhone maker's consumer guarantees policies and practices, and representations about consumers' rights under ACL.

In the federal court, Apple US admitted it had said as much "to at least 275 customers".

It has also said it will provide new devices as replacements for iPhones and iPads that have suffered a major failure, rather than refurbished ones. Apple has since committed to new replacements - if you request one.

Expect your Apple store workers to wear even bigger smiles: Apple says it will improve staff training, systems and procedures to ensure future compliance with Australian Consumer Law.

The users were told by Apple that they were not eligible for a remedy if the iPhone or iPad had been repaired by another company. "If customers would prefer a replacement, they are entitled to a new device as opposed to refurbished, if one is available", she said.

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