Apple Staff Allegedly Caught Misleading Customers Over iPhone ‘Error 53’ Repairs

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (AOCC) is again taking Apple to task over fatal "Error 53" codes that appear on some bricked iPhone and iPad devices that have been repaired by third-party services, though this time the consumer watchdog says it caught Apple employees misleading customers about their legal rights to a remedy.

At issue here is a security check that iOS performs on mobile devices to ensure they have not been compromised. Where things get tricky is when turning to an unauthorized repair shop to fix a broken iPhone or iPad, as might be the case if the screen cracks from dropping the device. Screen replacements are often come as all-in-one kits that include the display panel, front glass, front camera, Home button, and Touch ID sensor to make repairs easier.

Broken iPhone

Apple implemented the security check on Touch ID sensors is to protect consumers from fraudulent components and transactions. At the time this all  came to light, Apple said that only certain service centers can validate a Touch ID sensor. Since then, Apple has since issued an iOS update that restores bricked handsets and tablets, while keeping the Touch ID sensor disabled.

All should have been well, except that the AOCC setup a sting operation against Apple and claims to have caught employees lying to customers about their repair options. In more than a dozen calls made to Apple retailers across Australia, AOCC told employees that their iPhone speakers stopped working after having a third-party replace the screen.

"In each call, Apple Australia represented to the ACCC caller that no Apple entity ... was required to, or would, remedy the defective speaker at no cost under the [Australian consumer law] if the screen of the iPhone had been replaced by someone other than Apple Australia or an Apple-authorized service provider,” ACCC alleges in court documents.

Under Australian law, consumers have the right to a replacement or free repair if a product is faulty or otherwise deemed unacceptable. That is really the crux of the lawsuit.

Apple's response to the lawsuit is that no wrongdoing occurred because undercover calls made by the AOCC cannot be considered breaches, as consumer law does not exist in "hypothetical circumstances." The company further claims that real customers would have received accurate information from Apple in regards to their rights under consumer law.