Thursday, June 8, 2017

Apple ‘Error 53’ Sting Operation Caught Staff Misleading Customers

Apple ‘Error 53’

A sting operation was carried out against Apple by Australia’s consumer watchdog and it caught staff continually misguiding iPhone customers with regards to their legal rights to a repair or a replacement that is free of cost, after a malfunction called “error 53”.

This was brought to light through court documents. A high-profile case was lodged against Apple this year, after several iPhone and iPad users faced a malfunction that made their phones useless if it detected that a certain repair had been done by a third-party that was non-Apple. This malfunction took place between 2014 till early last year.

The case, which is scheduled to go to trial in mid-December this year, alleges that Apple incorrectly informed customers that they were not eligible for a free repair or replacement if they had got their devices repaired from a third-party repairer. This advice was given even when the repair was not connected to this malfunction, such as a screen replacement.

Breach was uncovered by the ACCC

So far, Apple has made a choice to remain silent about the case carried out by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). But Guardian Australia obtained court documents that show the company has refused these allegations made by ACCC to be true and said that it did not misinform to its Australian customers.

The documents also reveal that ACCC went undercover as iPhone customers to investigate the matter and made calls to all 13 Apple retailers across Australia last year in the month of June. On the call, they told the iPhone staff that their speakers stopped functioning after their screens were repaired by a third party.

Apple gave the same response in all the 13 calls, informing the ACCC caller that it would not repair or replace the defective speaker free of cost if the iPhone screen was replaced by someone other than Apple.

Error 53 and the Misinformation

Error 53 normally occurred after a customer tried to upgrade their phone’s operating system from iOS 8 or iOS 9 and about one in every 1,000 iPhones between September 2014 and February 2016. If the product was faulty or defective, Australian consumer law states the right of a customer to a free repair.

ACCC also alleged that the information on Apple’s website, too, was misleading. It said on the website that if any part of the iPhone was re-done somewhere else other than Apple, there would be a cost for the out-of-warranty repair. In response, Apple said the undercover calls conducted by the ACCC cannot be considered as the consumer law only exists for actual consumer-related issues and not suppositious circumstances.

Apple also said that real customers who came with actual problems received other information and were well informed of their rights as per the consumer law. As for what was mentioned on the website, Apple said that was in reference to the conditions of the company’s own limited warranty which is present along with the customer’s statutory rights.

Apple also stated that an outreach program was set up with regards to error 53 and offered repairs and replacements for most of the phones in the case mentioned by the ACCC. Also, an update was released last year in February to tackle the problem and restore smooth functionality.

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