Apple has been penalty AUS$ 9M (~$ 6.6 M) by a court in Australia following a legal challenge by a consumer rights group related to the company’s reaction after iOS updates bricked devices that had been repaired by third parties.
The Australian Competitor and Consumer Commission( ACCC) expended a series of complaints relating to an error (‘ fault 53 ’) which incapacitated some iPhones and iPads after proprietors downloaded an update to Apple’s iOS operating system.
The ACCC tells Apple admitted that, between February 2015 and February 2016 — via the Apple US’ website, Apple Australia’s staff in-store and customer services telephone call — it had informed at least 275 Australian patrons affected by error 53 that they were no longer eligible for legal remedies if their device had been repaired by a third party.
The court judged Apple’s action to have breached the Australian consumer law.
“If a product is faulty, patrons are legally entitled to a repair or a replacement for the purposes of the Australian Consumer Law, and sometimes even a rebate. Apple’s representations resulted customers to believe they’d be denied a remedy for their faulty machine because they used a third party repairer, ” told ACCC commissioner Sarah Court in a statement.
“The Court said the mere fact that an iPhone or iPad had been repaired by someone other than Apple did not, and could not, result in “consumers interests” secures ceasing to apply, or the consumer’s right to a remedy being extinguished.”
The ACCC notes that after it notified Apple about its investigation, the company enforced an outreach program to compensate individual consumers whose devices were attained inoperable by error 53. It tells this outreach program was extended to approximately 5,000 consumers.
It also says Apple Australia offered national courts enforceable undertaking to improve staff teach, examination information about warranties and Australian Consumer Law on the following website, and improve its systems and procedures to ensure future compliance with the law.
The ACCC notes also that a matter of concern addressed by the undertaking is that Apple was allegedly rendering refurbished goods as replacements, after furnishing a good which suffered a major failure — telling Apple has committed to provide new substitutions in those circumstances if “consumers interests” requests one.
“If people buy an iPhone or iPad from Apple and it suffers a major failure, they are entitled to a refund. If customers would prefer a replacing, they are entitled to a new machine as opposed to refurbished, if one is available, ” told Court.
The court likewise held the Apple parent company, Apple US, responsible for the conduct of its Australian subsidiary. “Global companies must ensure their returns policies falls within the Australian Consumer Law, or they will face ACCC action, ” added Court.
We’ve reached out to Apple for comment on the court decision and will update this post with any response.
A company spokeswoman told Reuters it had had “very productive conversations with the ACCC about this” but declined to comment further on the court finding.
More recently, Apple observed itself in hot water with consumer groups around the world over its use of a power management feature that throttled performance on older iPhones to avoid unexpected battery shutdowns.
The company apologized in December for not being more transparent about the feature, and later said it would add a control allowing consumers to turn it off if they did not crave their device’s performance to be impacted.