A sting operation carried out against Apple by the consumer watchdog of Australia, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, has revealed that staff of the iPhone maker have been misleading customers concerning their legal rights and entitlement to a free replacement or repair following the ‘error 53’ malfunction. This was according to documents filed in court.
This year authorities in Australia lodged a case against the Cupertino, California-based tech giant after owners of iPads and iPhones experienced a fault which rendered their devices useless once it was detected that a repair had been conducted by a technician who was not authorized by Apple. The malfunction happened between the late months of 2014 and early last year.
The case, whose trial is scheduled for mid-December, has accused the iPhone maker of misinforming its customers that they were not eligible for a free repair or replacement in situations where they had had their devices repaired by a third-party technician who was not authorized by Apple. This was even in situations where the repair constituted something like a screen replacement and which had nothing to do with the fault. Apple has, however, denied the allegations brought forth by the ACCC.
In the sting operation, the ACCC deployed undercover officials who posed as iPhone customers who visited all the 13 retail stores that Apple owns in Australia last year in June. The undercover investigators told Apple employees that the speakers on their iPhones were no longer working after their screens had been replaced by an unauthorized technician. In each of the 13 stores that the investigators visited they get the same response.
“…Apple Australia represented to the ACCC caller that no Apple entity… would, remedy the defective speaker at no cost … if the screen of the iPhone had been replaced by someone other than Apple Australia…” ACCC claims in the court documents.
The occurrence of error 53 was mostly in situations where users attempted to update the operating system of their iPhone to either version 8 or 9 of the iOS. Approximately one in 1,000 iPhones were affected. A similar case involved error 53 was lodged against Apple in the United States but was thrown out in 2016.