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ACCC takes Apple to court over Error 53 repair claims

Alex Kidman 6 April 2017

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Error 53 repairs should have been covered by Australian consumer law.

The ACCC has instituted proceedings against Apple relating to the "Error 53" issue that saw some users with bricked iPhones or iPads following the update to iOS 9.

The issue appeared to relate to those consumers having used third party services to repair their iOS devices, typically for broken smartphone screens.

According to the ACCC, 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’s allegation is that "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."

Apple will no doubt challenge the allegations in court, but it’s a timely reminder that Australian Consumer Law is the effective final arbiter for consumer law issues. A manufacturer may offer a warranty on a product, but it’s the consumer law that applies to all sales of goods and products in Australia, including their serviceability and what’s generally referred to as their being "fit for purpose".

It’s not the first time that Apple and the ACCC has clashed. The ACCC has previously taken Apple to task around the language its staff used in relation to consumer law as well as an earlier case where selected iPad models were sold as "WiFi+4G" when built on a technology base that did not work with Australian 4G networks.

We’ve approached Apple Australia for comment on the matter, but at the time of writing have not had a formal response.

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