Australia fines Apple $6.7 million over misleading 'Error 53' repair practices

Posted:
in iPhone
A court in Australia has fined the company for misleading iPhone and iPad owners over whether or not they were allowed to repair their devices.

Australia's ACCC


According to The Sydney Morning Herald, the ruling from Australia's Federal Court followed an action by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), a government regulator, over the infamous "Error 53" issue which disabled some iPads and iPhones subjected to unofficial repairs.

Apple was fined $9 million in Australian dollars, which translates to $6.68 million in American dollars. The ruling concludes an ACCC suit filed last April.

Error 53 codes first appeared on iPhone 6 series units in early 2015, but the issue gained public notoriety when media outlets reported the supposed glitch in early 2016. The ACCC lawsuit, which targeted codes resulting from screen repairs, specified an active case timeline between September 2014 and February 2016.

The glitch impacted hardware that had undergone Touch ID module -- or in some cases screen, flex cable and water-damaged component -- replacement by a repair firm operating outside of Apple's Authorized Service Provider network. Apple later acknowledged the issue, saying the error message was tied to Touch ID security.

Some customers had taken their devices to third party repair shops, and Apple has admitted that, in a 12-month period that ended in February 2016, at least 275 customers in Australia were told they could not have their devices repaired if it had previously been worked on by a third party. Apple launched an outreach program afterwards, which was offered to 5,000 consumers affected by Error 53.

"If a product is faulty, customers are legally entitled to a repair or a replacement under the Australian Consumer Law, and sometimes even a refund. Apple's representations led customers to believe they'd be denied a remedy for their faulty device because they used a third party repairer," ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court said in a statement. "The Court declared the mere fact that an iPhone or iPad had been repaired by someone other than Apple did not, and could not, result in the consumer guarantees ceasing to apply, or the consumer's right to a remedy being extinguished."

It's not the first time the ACCC has tangled with Apple; in 2017, the commission denied the country's three largest banks permission to collectively bargain with Apple over participation in Apple Pay. Five years earlier the body leveled a $2.3 million fine for misleading consumers with iPad marketing promising 4G compatibility.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 33
    I love Australia and I love Australians but they have some goofy laws. This makes no sense to me.
    watto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 2 of 33
    netroxnetrox Posts: 701member
    Wait a minute, Apple is being fined because someone had their phone repaired outside of authorized dealership?!?! What kind of stupid decision is that?
    jbdragonjony0
  • Reply 3 of 33
    anton zuykovanton zuykov Posts: 1,031member
    netrox said:
    Wait a minute, Apple is being fined because someone had their phone repaired outside of authorized dealership?!?! What kind of stupid decision is that?
    'stralia.... It is right to repair to the extreme, I guess. Basically, no matter what a shitty job a repairman did, your product must work, which makes zero sense when data security concerns are brought in.
    macseekerjony0racerhomie3
  • Reply 4 of 33
    nunzynunzy Posts: 662member
    Simply have iPhone repaired by Apple. Problem solved.
  • Reply 5 of 33
    The issue must have been that Apple said, 'no we won't repair it.' 
    Presumably, if they said, 'yes we will repair it but it will cost you because you took it to someone who was unauthorized to work on it,' they would have been ok.

    But honestly, if the ACCC thinks Apple should foot the bill for the repair after someone else has screwed it up, that's crap.

    watto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 6 of 33
    ikrugeikruge Posts: 2member
    So, if I take my iPhone to an unauthorised repairer and they melt it down to slag, Apple still has to repair it. How dumb is that?!?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 33
    mattinozmattinoz Posts: 986member

    ikruge said:
    So, if I take my iPhone to an unauthorised repairer and they melt it down to slag, Apple still has to repair it. How dumb is that?!
    No not at all. That is not reasonable wear so you voided your own consummer protection. You're not Apple's problem. 
    You still have a case against the repairer, after all you wouldn't expect them to melt your phone to slag.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 33
    mattinozmattinoz Posts: 986member
    netrox said:
    Wait a minute, Apple is being fined because someone had their phone repaired outside of authorized dealership?!?! What kind of stupid decision is that?
    'stralia.... It is right to repair to the extreme, I guess. Basically, no matter what a shitty job a repairman did, your product must work, which makes zero sense when data security concerns are brought in.
    The phones were working normally after the repair they were bricked by an update down the track then Apple said nothing we can do.
    Would you as a reasonable person find that reasonable?
    muthuk_vanalingamavon b7dagaz[Deleted User]plothh2p
  • Reply 9 of 33
    k129051k129051 Posts: 6member
    The issue must have been that Apple said, 'no we won't repair it.' 
    Presumably, if they said, 'yes we will repair it but it will cost you because you took it to someone who was unauthorized to work on it,' they would have been ok.

    But honestly, if the ACCC thinks Apple should foot the bill for the repair after someone else has screwed it up, that's crap.

    What's missing from the SMH article is that if a third party repair has damaged the device, then the manufacturer is not obliged to repair it.

    That fact is noted in this ABC news article.
    mattinoz[Deleted User]icoco3jony0
  • Reply 10 of 33
    "The Court declared the mere fact that an iPhone or iPad had been repaired by someone other than Apple did not, and could not, result in the consumer guarantees ceasing to apply, or the consumer's right to a remedy being extinguished."
    That sounds like some silly shit to me. Get it broken fixed by some third party and expect Apple to clean the ensuing mess.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 33
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 3,215member
    "The Court declared the mere fact that an iPhone or iPad had been repaired by someone other than Apple did not, and could not, result in the consumer guarantees ceasing to apply, or the consumer's right to a remedy being extinguished."
    That sounds like some silly shit to me. Get it broken fixed by some third party and expect Apple to clean the ensuing mess.
    As has been mentioned above. The phones left the repair shops in working order. It wasn't until later that problems appeared with an update. Apple itself created the mess then made it worse by refusing to deal with a problem. If you operate in a country with right to repair laws, you should take that into account before setting up shop in that country.


    edited June 2018 singularitymuthuk_vanalingam[Deleted User]IreneWh2p
  • Reply 12 of 33
    steveausteveau Posts: 206member
    "The Court declared the mere fact that an iPhone or iPad had been repaired by someone other than Apple did not, and could not, result in the consumer guarantees ceasing to apply, or the consumer's right to a remedy being extinguished."
    That sounds like some silly shit to me. Get it broken fixed by some third party and expect Apple to clean the ensuing mess.
    The point is that the devices were correctly fixed by a third party repairer and Apple then applied a software update that bricked the devices (error code 53) AND THEN said that they could not repair the devices because of the initial third party repair. The Federal Court has determined that this was essentially a lie, and lying to a consumer is illegal in Australia, as it should be in any civilised country!
    mattinozcroprmuthuk_vanalingamdagaz[Deleted User]gatorguyplothuroshnormazda 3sh2p
  • Reply 13 of 33
    kimberlykimberly Posts: 176member
    steveau said:
    "The Court declared the mere fact that an iPhone or iPad had been repaired by someone other than Apple did not, and could not, result in the consumer guarantees ceasing to apply, or the consumer's right to a remedy being extinguished."
    That sounds like some silly shit to me. Get it broken fixed by some third party and expect Apple to clean the ensuing mess.
    The point is that the devices were correctly fixed by a third party repairer and Apple then applied a software update that bricked the devices (error code 53) AND THEN said that they could not repair the devices because of the initial third party repair. The Federal Court has determined that this was essentially a lie, and lying to a consumer is illegal in Australia, as it should be in any civilised country!
    Exactly.
    muthuk_vanalingamdagaz[Deleted User]mazda 3s
  • Reply 14 of 33
    croprcropr Posts: 884member
    netrox said:
    Wait a minute, Apple is being fined because someone had their phone repaired outside of authorized dealership?!?! What kind of stupid decision is that?
    If that is your conclusion after reading the article, than the stupidity is not where you say it is.  
    singularitymuthuk_vanalingam[Deleted User]plothjfanning
  • Reply 15 of 33
    dagazdagaz Posts: 15member
    All you people whinging about the Australian government need to remember that Apple admitted it made a mistake. The error 53 message appeared after a software update that bricked phones, that had previously been working fine, if they had third party components - even though those third party components had been working fine up until the software update.
    singularitymuthuk_vanalingammattinozMplsP
  • Reply 16 of 33
    I rarely chime in here but COME ON!

    iDevices trigger an error code if a third party attempts to perform a repair and the only company that can repair such device without generating an error code is Apple?

    As if they don't make enough money 300 to 400 percent on the sales of a product, they make it impossible to repair without paying their high charges. it's not right .... period.

    If the repair shop incorrectly performed the physical repair itself then it should be on them to deal with the repair, but this is wrong.

    Sorry sir, you replaced your own windshield and that triggered an error that leaves your car unusable, if we replaced your windshield everything would've been fine.....BTW cost to replace windshield with us ,  $1500.00.

    LOL

    mattinoz
  • Reply 17 of 33
    dicebier said:
    I rarely chime in here but COME ON!

    iDevices trigger an error code if a third party attempts to perform a repair and the only company that can repair such device without generating an error code is Apple?

    As if they don't make enough money 300 to 400 percent on the sales of a product, they make it impossible to repair without paying their high charges. it's not right .... period.

    If the repair shop incorrectly performed the physical repair itself then it should be on them to deal with the repair, but this is wrong.

    Sorry sir, you replaced your own windshield and that triggered an error that leaves your car unusable, if we replaced your windshield everything would've been fine.....BTW cost to replace windshield with us ,  $1500.00.

    LOL

    You haven't described the situation. Typically it was something more like this:

    - Phone had a broken screen
    - Owner took phone to 3rd party repairer to get screen replaced
    - Phone was fixed and worked fine ....

    <insert lifestyle montage of temporarily happy phone owner here>

    Several months later...

    - Owner applies a software update to their phone that has been working fine the whole time
    - Phone is totally bricked with error 53

    Apple's response was "we can't do anything because you want to a 3rd party repairer. Here buy a new phone"

    In Australia, that response is not legal, and the ACCC totally made the right call here. The Error 53 behaviour was Apple's fault, and they should have either replaced the hardware or issued a software patch to fix it, at no cost to the customer. For some customers who were already stuck, a hardware repair at Apple's cost might have been the only way to fix the problem, and Apple ought to have worn that cost, and not refused service. They eventually did all the right things here (before the fine was issued).

    If the failure mode had been "touch ID won't work again on a phone with a 3rd party screen repair" (which is kind of where it landed up after Apple released a later software patch) this whole thing would have been a non-issue. If the error 53 bricking had never happened, it would have been a non-issue.

    For the benefit of our American cousins - this is what protection of consumer rights and not being ruled by corporations and kleptocrats looks like.
    avon b7mazda 3ssingularityIreneW
  • Reply 18 of 33
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 4,556member
    The issue must have been that Apple said, 'no we won't repair it.' 
    Presumably, if they said, 'yes we will repair it but it will cost you because you took it to someone who was unauthorized to work on it,' they would have been ok.

    But honestly, if the ACCC thinks Apple should foot the bill for the repair after someone else has screwed it up, that's crap.

    Reminds me of a case we had years and years ago.

    We’d built a packaged system using DBASE (the bad old days) and sold it to a number of customers. When it came to upgrade it, one of the customers said it had broken the database. We took his date, imported it to the test system, and yes, it broke.

    But when we examined the data, we found that some of the field definitions had been altered. There were extra tables and the existing tables had odd weird strings. 

    After weeks of pressing the customer, he finally admitted that they'd got a junior developer to make changes to the database and write a few C modules to help them integrate with another third-party system. The customer said we should fix it because our upgrade broke the system. We said we won't fix it because it was their messing about that broke the upgrade, not the upgrade itself. Every other system worked with the same upgrade. 

    What the customer had to do was fix the original problem: his modification. Once that was fixed then the upgrade worked.

    Same here: It wasn't the upgrade that broke the phone. It was the unauthorised repair.

    Now, this bit about Apple being able to charge for repairs if the phone was broken by an unauthorized fix. That doesn't to be what it says here:

    "The Court declared the mere fact that an iPhone or iPad had been repaired by someone other than Apple did not, and could not, result in the consumer guarantees ceasing to apply, or the consumer's right to a remedy being extinguished."
    So are they saying that a guarantee cannot be invalidated because a customer used an unauthorised dealer?

    How odd.

    edited June 2018 watto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 33
    Apple & Samsung have poor records of correctly advising customers of their legal rights to repair and replacement of faulty goods under the Australian Consumer Act here downunder. The act was long in place before they traded here and they entered this market with eyes wide open. The laws are so strong that there’s actually not even a good case to take out AppleCare. Our rights for repair or replacement of faulty goods cover a “reasonable period” of time based on cost of the item. We can even insist on a new phone rather than a refurb, if a new phone is still available. 
    muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 20 of 33
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 4,556member

    dicebier said:
    I rarely chime in here but COME ON!

    iDevices trigger an error code if a third party attempts to perform a repair and the only company that can repair such device without generating an error code is Apple?


    Read it again. You can have the device repaired by Apple or an authorised Apple repair shop.

    In much the same way that I can my Prius Hybrid engine repaired by Toyota or an authorised Toyota Repair Shop. If I take it somewhere else then Toyota won't honour the guarantee, and quite right too. They have no idea what some idiot with no training might have done to the car. If they repair it and it breaks, then they're the last people to touch it, even if the fault was caused by Honest Bob's Hybrid Chop Shop (No job too big, or too small. Cash Only please)

    But do chime in again. 
    watto_cobra
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