Regulator sues Apple for millions over iPhone repair policies

Remember the “Error 53” message that appeared last year on iPhones that were serviced by third-party repair shops? It turns out that kind of practice isn’t legal in Australia, or so the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) says. The regulator is suing Apple, alleging that the iPhone maker broke local consumer laws by bricking devices that were not repaired in official Apple shops.

Error 53 was initially explained as a security measure meant to protect users whose iPhones or iPads had the Touch ID sensors swapped by a third-party repair shop. Apple than labeled it a mistake, providing support on how to avoid it. However, the ACCC thinks that Apple’s behavior isn’t acceptable in Australia.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the ACCC is seeking monetary penalties for Apple that could go up to around $829,000 per violation. It’s unclear how many violations were registered in the region between September 2014 and February 2016.

“It’s fair to say we haven’t observed similar behavior by other manufacturers,” chairman of the ACCC Rod Sims told The Journal. “Apple seems to have a particular way of doing things.”

He said that the lawsuit isn’t just about Error 53, as it also targets Apple’s policy of charging for repairs if a device was previously serviced by a third party.

The ACCC argues that it is often cheaper for customers to seek repairs from third-party shops. Under Australian consumer law, when a client purchases a product there is a guarantee the product will be a “reasonable fit” for its purpose. That guarantee is “not extinguished because a consumer has goods repaired by a third-party repairer,” according to Sims. “We want manufacturers to know that, and we want consumers to know that.”

The ACCC says that Error 53 rendered devices unusable, which is why the regulator is seeking monetary compensation from Apple.

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