Australian regulator sues Apple over iPhone, iPad repairs

Apple is being sued by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) over an alleged breach of the country’s rules on consumer rights.

The Australian regulator claims Apple made “false, misleading, or deceptive representations about consumers’ rights” in relation to iPhones and iPads that would stop working if fixed by an unauthorised third-party repair shop.

Apple has faced criticism before, after last year it emerged that devices fitted with unauthorised Touch ID modules, or screen, flex cable, or water-damaged components, would lock themselves, rendering the phone or tablet useless.

Related: iPhone 8

Now, the ACCC has filed suit against the firm in Australia’s Federal Court, following an investigation into the ‘error 53’ message that would appear on the devices after an unauthorised fix was carried out.

When the issue became public last year, Apple responded with a statement claiming devices fixed by unauthorised repairers would be locked as a security measure and that it would unlock any devices customers brough directly to the company.

As statement to The Guardian at the time read: “We protect fingerprint data using a Secure Enclave, which is uniquely paired to the Touch ID sensor.

“When [an] iPhone is serviced by an authorised Apple service provider or Apple retail store for changes that affect the Touch ID sensor, the pairing is re-validated.”

iPad Air 2iPads were also affected by the ‘error 53’ problem

Australia’s regulator is seemingly unconvinced, however, and has released a statement detailing its concerns about how Apple allegedly breached the country’s consumer law regarding warranties by allegedly refusing to fix customer’s devices after a third-party fix had already taken place.

As it claims in the statement: “The ACCC investigation revealed that Apple appears to have routinely refused to look at or service consumers’ defective devices if a consumer had previously had the device repaired by a third party repairer, even where that repair was unrelated to the fault.

“…The ACCC alleges Apple represented to consumers with faulty products that they were not entitled to a free remedy if their Apple device had previously been repaired by third party, “unauthorised repairers”.

“However, having a component of the Apple device serviced, repaired, or replaced by someone other than Apple cannot, by itself, extinguish the consumer’s right to a remedy for non-compliance with the consumer guarantees.”

ACCC Chairman Rod Sims added: “Consumer guarantee rights under the Australian Consumer Law exist independently of any manufacturer’s warranty and are not extinguished simply because a consumer has goods repaired by a third party.“

Last year, after the ‘error 53’ debacle began, Apple told owners to contact the company directly, but a class action suit was filed in the US by some disgruntled customers.

Though the suit was eventually thrown out of court, Apple did release a patch that meant locked iPhone and iPad models could update to iOS 9.2.1, unlocking them and fixing the ‘error 53’ problem.

In the new lawsuit, the ACCC is seeking penalties, injunctions, declarations, compliance program orders, corrective notices and costs.

TrustedReviews has contacted Apple for a statement.

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