Apple Faces Possible Class Action Over Touch ID “Error 53”

Law firms are already gearing up for lawsuits against Apple following news that the iPhone maker bricks iPhone 6 and 6 Plus units following third-party Touch ID repairs, the Guardian reports. It all started with a report from late last week about the “Error 53” code, which renders the handsets unusable.


What makes the cases spicy is that Apple disables the iPhones of customers who have decided to repair their damaged handsets at a third-party, unofficial repair shop. As iFixit explains, the error code appears because the non-official repair shop doesn’t use original components; hence, they fail the Touch ID validation check.

Apple explains that it protects the fingerprint data using a secure enclave, which is uniquely paired with the Touch ID sensor. When the handset is serviced in that area, the pairing is revalidated — but only if the servicing was done by an authorized Apple service provider.

PCVA reacted to the news on February 5 by calling out to all affected iPhone users, as the law firm believes Apple’s policy of restricting the customers to authorized service providers only (in this case, the Apple Store) violates various consumer protection laws in the US. The firm is offering to represent the victims for free.

“We believe Apple may be intentionally forcing users to use their repair services, which cost much more than most third-party repair shops. There is incentive for Apple to keep end users from finding alternative methods to fix their products. Think of it this way: let’s say you bought a car, and had your alternator replaced by a local mechanic. Under Apple’s strategy, your car would no longer start because you didn’t bring it to an official dealership. They intentionally disable your car because you tried to fix it yourself. That is wrong,” it states on its website.

Another potential lawsuit could be launched in the UK by a London-based barrister, who said Apple likely breached basic consumer laws in the UK and added that it could be committing an offence under the Criminal Damage Act 1971.

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  • I’ve had this discussion a few days ago multiple times when this new first hit Google Plus. I actually agree with the phone locking itself down, and I’ll explain why.

    People flipped out when they found out Police, FBI, etc. Didn’t need a search warrant to access the information on your phone. Essentially Apple put a stop to this by implementing this error. Any unauthorized hardware manipulation could be an attempt to access user information, thus the phone locks down, stopping all access to the phone and the information on it.

    If someone chooses to take their $1,200 phone to an unothorized mom and pop shop because it saves them $30 bucks on a repair by an unlicensed unqualified technician, you take that risk. Be smart, go to the Apple Store like a normal person.

    I don’t expect many to agree with me, but this is simply how I view it.

  • I was thinking the same thing, but then a friend of mine reminded me that the phone already asks for your passcode if it’s powered off and turned back on again. If you’ve handed over your phone to the authorities and haven’t given them your password, or if your phone is stolen, switching out the TouchID sensor wouldn’t give them access anyway.

    I could see if a third-party repair disabled the TouchID sensor, which would still encourage people to get their phones repaired by Apple, but bricking the phone does seem a bit extreme.

  • That Guy

    YES PLEASE SUE. I usually don’t agree with Lawsuits but this Error 53 Stuff is BULL, I Buy and sell used phones and nothing upsets me more than when I update a perfectly good WORKING iPhone and then it’s Junk for no apparent reason other than what BULL Apple has fed me.

  • I agree on that aspect. The she should be able to be revived somehow via the Apple Store if you can prove ownership or something. It is a bit extream for sure.

  • Ed Cicci

    I agree fully. I’m no techie but why have Touch ID if simply by a third party replacing the sensor the phone could be used by an unauthorized person. Sandboxing the Touch ID is what makes the phone secure and should be protected at all costs.