Apple Fined $9 Million Over 'Error 53' Backlash

Josh Miller  CNET

Josh Miller CNET

Apple has been fined AUS$9 million ($6.6 million/£5 million) for misleading Australian consumers about their right to get faulty iPhone and iPad devices repaired.

In April 2017, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) commenced a legal battle with Apple in the Federal Court of Australia.

When Apple was told about the ACCC's investigation it started an outreach program to compensate consumers affected by error 53, which was extended to about 5000 customers.

The "error 53" disabled some iPhones and iPads after consumers updated Apple's iOS operating system.

Apple has stated on its website that if you have your device repaired by an unauthorised third party, it will not help if something goes wrong - such as error 53.

In addition to the $9 million fine, Apple offered a "court enforceable undertaking to not in engage in this kind of conduct in the future".

Prior to the update, several iPhone and iPad users turned to third party repair shops to fix a problem with Touch ID, and these places used non-Apple repairmen and components to repair disabled units.

"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".

The consumer watchdog said Apple had also committed to providing new devices as replacements, after allegations that the company was giving customers refurbished goods instead after a device suffered a major failure. "If customers would prefer a replacement, they are entitled to a new device as opposed to refurbished, if one is available", Court said.

She said multi-national firms and their returns policies had to be compliant with the Australian Consumer Law.

A company spokeswoman told Reuters it had had "very productive conversations with the ACCC about this" but declined to comment further on the court finding. Apple's Australian arm also said that it would improve training of its staff, post information about its warranties and Australian Consumer Law on its web site, and improve systems and compliance with the consumer laws in the the country.

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