The Australian government today fined Apple $9 million for misleading some customers into believing they could not have their iOS devices fixed by Apple if they had been previously repaired by a third-party repair shop, reports The Sydney Morning Herald.
Today’s ruling comes after the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC) launched an investigation into Apple after the ACCC received complaints over “error 53,” issues.
Error 53, widely publicized in 2016, caused some iPhone 6 users who had the Home buttons on their iPhones fixed by a non-Apple technician using non-original parts to see their iPhones bricked following a software update.
When the error code first surfaced, Apple said that error 53 was a protective security feature meant to prevent “malicious” third-party components from potentially compromising a user’s iPhone, but after public outcry, Apple released a software update restoring functionality to bricked iPhones. Following the software update to unbrick iPhones, Apple claimed that the error 53 issue was meant to be a factory test and never should have impacted consumer devices.
Amid error 53 investigations led by the ACCC, Apple admitted that between February 2015 and February 2016, at least 275 Australian customers had been told in store or over the phone that they could not have their iPad or iPhone fixed if it had been repaired by a third party, such as in the error 53 situation.
Apple’s refusal to provide repairs to Australian customers who had previous repairs done by third-party shops violates Australian Consumer Law, according to an Australian Federal Court.
When it learned of the ACCC’s investigation, Apple launched an outreach program that has compensated approximately 5,000 consumers who were affected by error 53. Apple’s Australian arm is also improving staff training to make sure its stores comply fully with Australian Consumer Law, and Apple will now provide new devices as replacements instead of refurbished devices if a customer requests one.
In the United States, Apple was hit with a lawsuit over error 53, but it was dismissed after the company restored full iPhone functionality through a software update and reimbursed customers who had paid for out-of-warranty device replacements.