Apple’s long history of Australian consumer law problems

Angus Kidman 7 April 2017 NEWS


The Error 53 issue isn't Apple's first stoush with the ACCC.

As we reported yesterday, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has launched court proceedings against Apple, saying that the tech giant has been flouting obligations under Australian consumer law. As the ACCC announcement noted: "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 issue first emerged when one iOS 9 update caused some phones which had undergone screen repairs to display an "Error 53" code and refuse to launch, but is broader than that.

We won't know the outcome of the ACCC proceedings for some time. What we do know is that this is far from the first time that Apple has been in trouble over consumer law in Australia. Here are just a few examples:

  • In December 2013, Apple agreed to a court-enforceable undertaking from the ACCC that it would ensure that consumers were not given false representations about their warranty and consumer rights. Practices undertaken by Apple employees which had concerned the ACCC included saying that faulty goods could only be returned within 14 days and that limited warranty rights only applied for 12 months. In particular, Apple agreed that it was obliged to provide support for faulty goods for at least 24 months, and longer in some cases. It also acknowledged that it was obliged to provide support for faulty non-Apple products purchased through Apple stores, rather than forcing consumers to go to manufacturers.
  • In March 2012, the ACCC won a court case against Apple, which had launched an iPad model called the "iPad with WiFi+4G" in Australia even though the device was not actually compatible with any of Australia's 4G networks at the time. As well as having to offer refunds to any purchasers of that model who asked for one, Apple was also slapped with a $2.25 million fine.
  • Apple's terms and conditions for iTunes and the App Store used to include the claim that "All sales and rentals of products are final" and that no refunds would be available. The Australian terms have since been updated to reflect that a refund is available if the app does not function as described.
  • In 2011, the ACCC negotiated an enforceable undertaking with Optus to ensure that any phones sold on a 24-month contract were offered warranty support for the life of that contract. That deal specifically included iPhones, which was interesting, as similar agreements with Vodafone and Telstra had not includes the iPhone, because Apple would not allow those carriers to do support work on phones. In its view at the time, only Apple was entitled to make repairs - an issue we're now seeing surface again.

From this perspective, one of the more notable aspects of the recent ACCC decision over letting banks collectively negotiate over Apple Pay was that the decision actually went Apple's way. That's rarely been the case in the past.

Angus Kidman's Findings column looks at new developments and research that help you save money, make wise decisions and enjoy your life more. It appears Monday through Friday on

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