Apple sued over broken iPhones by Australia after 'Error 53' controversy

Andrew Griffin
A technician opens a broken iPhone 6 by Apple in a shop in Fuerstenfeldbruck near Munich, Germany: Reuters

Apple is being sued by Australia, after its phones started breaking with no warning.

A new case from the country’s consumer watchdog accuses the company of “bricking”, or remotely disabling, phones with a software update. That follows the controversy over what was dubbed “Error 53” – named after the message that was displayed after the update arrived and wouldn’t allow people to use their phone.

Specifically, the problem arose when people had their screens fixed by a non-Apple repairer. That triggered what Apple said was a security measure, but others complained was an unfair change, which meant that the phones wouldn’t turn back on and couldn’t be fixed again by Apple.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said the change, which stopped people from using their phones at all, was unfair. It drew attention to the fact that Apple told customers that it wasn’t required to, and wouldn’t, provide a fix for the problem.

“Consumer guarantee rights under the Australian Consumer Law exist independently of any manufacturer’s warranty and are not extinguished simply because a consumer has goods repaired by a third party,” ACCC chairman Rod Sims said.

Apple had been engaged in “misleading or deceptive conduct and made false or misleading representations to consumers”, the ACCC’s court filings read. As such, it asked for injunctions, declarations, compliance programme orders, corrective notices, and costs as well as fines.

The filing came just a week after the watchdog ruled in favour of Apple’s by denying Australian banks the ability to launch their own rival to Apple’s Wallet app, which allows people to pay for things with their phone.