Apple staff misled customers on ‘error 53,’ court documents allege – CNET

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New court documents have surfaced, detailing ACCC’s undercover investigation efforts pertaining to “error 53.”

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Apple has a court date with Australia’s consumer competition watchdog in December, but new “error 53” developments are coming well before then.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) alleged that in 13 undercover calls made to Australian Apple retailers last June, Apple representatives wrongly told customers it did not have the responsibility to fix device faults of iPhones if they were repaired by an unauthorised third-party, according to new court documents obtained by The Guardian.

Between 2014 and February 2016, some iPhone users encountered “error 53” when they had their devices repaired by third parties not licensed by Apple. The new parts placed in the phone were not considered “official,” leading some devices to fail software security checks revolving around the fingerprint-scanning Touch ID. As a result, the users’ iPhones would become bricked, showing only an “error 53” message.  

Legal experts warned that Apple could have been acting illegally by knowingly disabling devices that users did not opt to get fixed with Apple’s own, more costly repairs. 

In the document which detailed methods used by the ACCC to investigate the matter, undercover callers had complained to 13 Apple retailers in Australia about malfunctioning iPhone speakers following a screen replacement by an unofficial third party.  

“In each call,” read the document, “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or would, remedy the defective speaker at no cost under the [Australian consumer law] if the screen of the iPhone had been replaced by someone other than Apple Australia or an Apple-authorised service provider.”

This, it has argued, violates Australia’s consumer protection laws

For its part, the tech giant said in the court files it would have informed real customers of their rights under consumer law, denying any intention to mislead or cause harm to its Australian customers.

Apple added that the ACCC’s undercover calls with the company cannot be seen as a violation of the consumer law, as they do not exist in “hypothetical circumstances.”

Apple declined to comment.

Update, 1:56 a.m. PTAdded that Apple declined to comment.

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