Australian Regulators Sue Apple Over Fatal Error 53 Bricking Of Repaired iPhones

Shrimp on the barbie? Try Apple on the barbie. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is suing Apple over “Error 53”, which bricked iPhones and iPads last year that were repaired by third-parties. The ACCC claims that the forced software bricking violated Australian consumer law.

Last February, several iPhone 6 users received the “Error 53” message after trying to upgrade to iOS 9. The message effectively bricked the phones. It turns out that these users had repaired their screens and other components through "unauthorized" third-party service centers. iPhone 6 screen replacements are often sold as one complete unit and therefore affect the display panel, front glass, front camera, Home Button, and Touch ID.

iphone flat on table

Apple originally claimed that the error had been issued in order to protect the phones from potentially fraudulent Touch ID components. The company claimed that only its specific service centers could revalidate Touch ID sensors, and that this task could not be completed by a third party. Apple later admitted that the error was actually a mistake and issued an updated version of iOS 9.2.1 specifically for iPhone users who saw the “Error 53” message. This update restored the bricked phones and removed the security checks.

The ACCC has stepped up where the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California stepped down. Australian Consumer Law requires that products be “reasonably fit” for their intended purposes. The ACCC insists that “Error 53” violated this guarantee and Apple therefore must remedy the situation. Apple tends to either charge or turn away customers who have had third party repairs. The ACCC argue that “having a component of the Apple device serviced, repaired or replaced by someone other than Apple cannot, by itself, extinguish the consumer’s right to a remedy for non-compliance with the consumer guarantees.” Consumer’s rights in Australia also extend to software and software updates.

iphone ios homescreen in hand

Rod Sims, chairman of the ACCC, noted that the lawsuit challenges Apple’s policy. According to Sims, “It's fair to say we haven't observed similar behavior by other manufacturers. Apple seems to have a particular way of doing things.”

The ACCC is currently suing Apple for $1.1 million AUD or $829,000 USD per breach. The court will decide if and how many times breaches occurred.