Apple taken to court by Australia over alleged iPhone ‘bricking’
Australia's consumer watchdog has sued tech giant Apple alleging the company used a software update to disable iPhones which had cracked screens fixed by third parties.
According to the court filing, Apple 'bricked' or disabled with a software update hundreds of smartphones and tablet devices. It then refused to unlock them because customers had the devices serviced by “unauthorized repairers.”
"Consumer guarantee rights under 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," said Rod Sims, chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).
He added that “denying a consumer their consumer guarantee rights simply because they had chosen a third party repairer not only impacts those consumers but can dissuade other customers from making informed choices about their repair options including where they may be offered at lower cost than the manufacturer.”
The regulator said that between September 2014 and February 2016, Apple customers who downloaded software updates and then connected their devices to their computers received a message saying the device "could not be restored and the device had stopped functioning."
When customers asked Apple to fix their devices, they were told that "no Apple entity... was required to, or would, provide a remedy" for free.
ACCC says Apple engaged in "misleading or deceptive conduct and made false or misleading representations to consumers" about its software updates and customers' rights to have their products repaired by the company.
Last year, Apple customers worldwide faced the so-called 'Error 53' problem in iPhone software which rendered devices non-functional when serviced by non-Apple technicians.
The company has apologized and issued a fix in the form of a software update. It has also released a new support document on its site that covers the causes and repair methods for the error.
The electronics giant had previously claimed the error was a measure that existed to prevent fraudulent transactions and keep devices secure.