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Consumer watchdog sues Apple

apple-logoThe consumer watchdog has taken action against Apple and its US-based parent company for allegedly making false, and deceptive representations about consumers’ rights under the Australian Consumer Law. 

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has commenced proceedings against the tech giant in the Federal Court following reports Apple used a software update which disables customers’ devices fixed by third parties.

The software update resulted in an error relating to ‘error 53’ – an error which disabled some consumers’ iPads or iPhones after downloading an update to Apple’s ‘iOS’ operating system. Many consumers who experienced error 53 had previously had their Apple device repaired by a third party; usually replacing a cracked screen.

The tech company had allegedly refused to look at or service consumers’ defective devices if a consumer had previously had the device repaired by a third party repairer, even where that repair was unrelated to the fault.

The regulator said Apple had told customers that “no Apple entity … was required to, or would, provide a remedy” for free, the document stated. 

The ACCC stated under the Australian Consumer Law, there are a number of “consumer guarantees” regarding the quality, suitability for purpose and other characteristics of goods and services, and consumers are entitled to certain remedies at no cost where goods and services do not comply with the consumer guarantees.

According to the consumer watchdog, Apple engaged in “misleading or deceptive conduct and made false or misleading representations to consumers” about its software update and customers’ rights to have their products repaired by the company.

“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.

“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.”

Sims added as consumer goods become increasingly complex, businesses also need to remember that consumer rights extend to any software or software updates loaded onto those goods. “Faults with software or software updates may entitle consumers to a free remedy under the Australian Consumer Law.”

The regulator is seeking fines, injunctions, declarations, compliance program orders, corrective notices, and costs.

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