Oz regulator hauls Apple to court over iBricks

Third party repair doesn't void consumer warranty rights

Apple's “error 53” i-Thing bricking bug has landed it in court again, this time in Australia.

“Error 53” has been a source of irritation for iPhone customers for years: if iOS detects an unauthorised Touch ID module, iOS locks itself down, effectively bricking the phone – and only someone with Apple's blessing can fix it.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's (ACCC's) lawsuit is over whether consumers here are allowed to have third-party screen replacements that come without the hefty price of an original.

In its announcement, the ACCC alleges “Apple appears to have routinely refused to look at or service consumers’ defective devices if a consumer had previously had the device repaired by a third party repairer, even where that repair was unrelated to the fault.”

That, the regulator says, is in breach of Australia's consumer law regarding warranties.

Its lawsuit claims Apple told consumers that third-party repairs voided their warranties.

“[H]aving 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,” the ACCC says.

Commissioner Rod Sims makes this interesting statement in the commission's press release: “consumer rights”, he says, “extend to any software or software updates” in complex consumer goods.

“Faults with software or software updates may entitle consumers to a free remedy under the Australian Consumer Law.”

Perhaps the ACCC has noticed how much of the exceeding awfulness of the Internet of Things is down to manufacturers slacking their software security and patching responsibilities. ®

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