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Apple Ordered to Pay $9 Million AUD Fine in Australia After ‘Error 53’ Controversy

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Apple has been fined $9 million AUD (~8.8 million CAD) by an Australian court for making false claims about consumer rights when refusing to fix faulty iPhones and iPads previously repaired by a third party.

According to a new report from CNET, the court action was started by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) after it received complaints about ‘Error 53’, which disabled some Apple devices after an operating system update was downloaded.

Error 53 was widely feared by the iPhone community as it locked users out of their phones, turning the expensive device into little more than a stylish paperweight. The error only affected those who took their iPhones to a third-party repair store to fix a broken home button, and Apple has long claimed that the error was intended as a security measure, to stop Touch ID being bypassed or exploited by third parties.

Unfortunately, since third-party repair stores are not always privy to Apple’s specific repair instructions, any tampering with the Home button — even to repair it — would lead to Error 53 being triggered, and the iPhone getting locked.

Via its US website, customer service calls, and Apple Australia in-store staffers, the tech giant had then told at least 275 customers between February 2015 and February 2016 that they were ineligible to remedies if their phone or tablet had been repaired by a third-party store.

“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,” ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court said.

“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.”

After the ACCC notified Apple about its investigation, Apple implemented an outreach program to compensate individual consumers whose devices were made inoperable by error 53. This outreach program was extended to approximately 5,000 consumers.

“If people buy an iPhone or iPad from Apple and it suffers a major failure, they are entitled to a refund. If customers would prefer a replacement, they are entitled to a new device as opposed to refurbished, if one is available,” Court concluded.

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