Thousands of complaints led to Apple court action Would not replace recalled iPhones if they were previously fixed by an “unauthorised repairer” By Last updated: 10 April 2017 Thousands of Australian Apple customers were denied their consumer rights to have products repaired, including those sold defective iPhones that were later recalled, according to court documents. The ACCC initiated Federal Court late last week for denying to fix iPhones and iPads handled by a third-party repairer, claiming its conduct is a violation of the guarantees protected by Australian Consumer Law. Court documents obtained by CHOICE reveal 275 Apple customers lodged complaints with the ACCC; however, these represent a small percentage of the total number of complaints made, says Rod Sims, chair of the ACCC. “By far the largest number of complaints went to Apple. Certainly we had a number of complaints, but Apple had thousands of complaints made to them,” he says. An investigation was launched into Apple after a share of its customers tried updating to a newer version of iOS. The update disabled iPhones and iPads that had been repaired by “unauthorised” third-party repairers, in an issue widely known as “error 53”. The ACCC found Apple went as far as refusing to repair or replace iPhones part of global recall programs. These iPhones were sold with defects causing the camera to be blurry or the standby button to improperly work. Apple allegedly turned customers affected by the recalls down for more than a year, up until January 2016. The ACCC believes such conduct was part of Apple’s day-to-day conduct. “This was rooted in behaviour by Apple,” Sims tells CHOICE. The ACCC contacted 13 Apple Stores across Australia mid last year as part of its investigation, including the flagship store on George Street in Sydney. A representative from each store confirmed Apple would not fix an iPhone at no cost if it had been handled by a third-party repairer. The policy was also marketed on the company’s Australia website until February 2016, but has since been updated to reflect a backtrack on Apple’s stance. “If you believe that you paid for an out-of-warranty device replacement based on an error 53 issue, contact Apple Support to ask about reimbursement,” the revised webpage says. Other smartphone manufacturers are not suspected of similar behaviour, says Sims. “When dealing with systematic behaviour, we’ll often focus on the biggest player because they’re causing the most detriment, but here the behaviour seems to be particularly focussed with what Apple is doing. “We’ve got to win the case first before one talks about penalties. [But] if a penalty is to be decided, we then need to seek a penalty that is of sufficient deterrent value to Apple and that would have to be substantial.” Apple Australia could not comment at the time of publication.