Australian Court Hits Apple With $9 Million Fine Over Error 53 Bricked iPhones
A crippling bug that could effectively brick an older iPhone or iPad is going to cost Apple at least $9 million, which is how much a federal court in Australia fined the company. The fine is not due to the actual software flaw that Apple later patched with iOS 9.2.1, but for telling some Australian iPhone and iPad owners that it would not fix their bricked mobile device if they it had previously been repaired outside of Apple.
The bug in question became known as "Error 53" because that is the error code that would appear in iTunes on affected devices. According to support document on Apple's website, the error 53 code is displayed "when a device fails a security test...designed to check whether Touch ID works properly before the device leaves the factory." It also states that the test wasn't intended to affect customers, but it did.
Users would typically see the error 53 code after having a third-party service center swap out a cracked or non-functioning screen on an iPhone device. Screen replacements are often sold as one complete unit containing the display panel, front glass, front camera, Home button, and Touch ID sensor.
Apple's hard line stance on refusing to service bricked units that had previously been repaired outraged customers and drew the ire of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), which initiated the court proceeding.
"The customers said] they were being refused a remedy of any kind by Apple on the basis that their device had had unauthorized repairs, and those repairs could be as minor as just having a cracked screen replaced on an iPhone or iPad, which all of us need to do from time to time," ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court said. "So these consumers were being told, 'because you've had this third party repair, you are not entitled to any remedy'."
The $9 million fine is a drop in the bucket for Apple, which earned $229 billion during its fiscal 2017, resulting in a profit of more than $48 billion. Most of the company's revenue is generated through iPhone sales. While a $9 million fine is not a significant number for Apple, it does set a precedent that will hopefully prevent a situation like this from happening in the future.