The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has started legal action against Apple, accusing the tech giant of “false, misleading, or deceptive representations about consumers’ rights”.
Early last year, the tech company was caught deliberately disabling iPhone and iPad devices that it judged to be repaired by a third party. The ACCC said at the time that it would be starting an immediate enquiry to ensure consumer rights were not violated by Apple.
The ACCC today announced it was starting legal proceedings in the Federal Court against the Australian arm of Apple and its US parent company, after its investigation found the tech firm allegedly “routinely refused” to help customers with defective devices if it thought it was previously serviced by a third party repairer. This refusal even occurred if that repair was unrelated to the fault, the commission alleges.
“Denying a consumer their consumer guarantee rights simply because they had chosen a third party repairer not only impacts those consumers but can dissuade other customers from making informed choices about their repair options including where they may be offered at lower cost than the manufacturer,” said ACCC chair Rod Sims.
The problem first reared its head when customers upgraded to iOS 9, which was released in late 2015. The upgraded operating system was designed to detect if the iPhone or iPad’s home button or the fingerprint recognition sensor was not in its original state — to deduce if a third party had serviced the product.
Upon detection, the screen would show “error 53”, with the operating system forcibly and permanently making the device unusable – a practice known as “bricking”.
Even Apple Store staff reportedly could not reverse the bricking and users had no opportunity to retrieve personal information stored on the iPhone or iPad that had not been backed up into the cloud.
The ACCC stated that, under Australian law, the action of having a device “serviced, repaired, or replaced by someone other than Apple” cannot solely waive the consumer’s right to a warranty from the manufacturer.
“As consumer goods become increasingly complex, businesses also need to remember that consumer rights extend to any software or software updates loaded onto those goods. Faults with software or software updates may entitle consumers to a free remedy under the Australian Consumer Law,” said Sims.
Business Insider has contacted Apple Australia for comment.
The ACCC stated that it was seeking “pecuniary penalties, injunctions, declarations, compliance program orders, corrective notices and costs” from the court case.