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Apple hit with $6.6 million fine in Australia over 'Error 53' fiasco

You can't tell Australians that you'll brick their phones if they get an unauthorized repair.
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South_agency via Getty Images

Australian authorities didn't buy Apple's explanation for the infamous Error 53 message, which bricked a lot of phones in 2016. The country's federal court has slapped the tech giant with a US$6.6 million fine a year after the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) filed a lawsuit against it over the phone-bricking error. If you'll recall, Error 53 disabled phones that were previously repaired by third-party companies, even if it was just to replace cracked screens. Apple originally refused to fix the issue and explained that it bricked the devices to protect users from potentially malicious third-party Touch ID sensors. It eventually relented and rolled out a software patch, but the ACCC still proceeded with its lawsuit.

As ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court explained, you can't tell Australians that "because you've had this third party repair, you are not entitled to any remedy." She added users should be free to have their screens replaced and other repairs done by third-party companies, so long as the procedure "doesn't damage the underlying system of the phone." Under the Australian Consumer Law, "customers are legally entitled to a repair or a replacement... and sometimes even a refund" if a product is faulty.

Even before the court handed down its verdict, though, Apple already agreed to compensate approximately 5,000 customers who were affected by Error 53. Cupertino also promised to train employees about warranties under the Australian Consumer Law in order to ensure compliance going forward.

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