AN AUSTRALIAN WATCHDOG claims to have carried out a sting operation that caught Apple misleading customers about their legal rights to a free repair or replacement following its device-borking 'Error 53' update.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has taken Apple to Federal Court first took Apple to task back in April, alleging that the firm breached consumer law by telling customers who had suffered "Error 53" borkage that it didn't have to fix their device if it had been earlier repaired by a third party.
The case is set to go to trial in December, and documents seen by the Guardian show that the ACC is using undercover methods to investigate Apple. The watchdog, posing as legit iPhone customers called all 13 Apple retailers across Australia in June last year and alleges that, in each instance, Apple provided misleading information.
During the call, the undercover complainant told Apple staff their iPhone speakers had stopped working after screens were replaced by a third party, and Apple's response was the same in each of the 13 calls,
"In each call, Apple Australia represented to the ACCC caller that no Apple entity ... was required to, or would, remedy the defective speaker at no cost under the [Australian consumer law] if the screen of the iPhone had been replaced by someone other than Apple Australia or an Apple authorised service provider," the ACCC's court claim alleged.The documents also show that the ACCC has alleged information on Apple US website misled customers about their rights. The website told users experiencing error 53 that: "If the screen or any other part on your iPhone or iPad was replaced somewhere else, contact Apple Support about pricing information for out-of-warranty repairs."
The documents also show that the ACCC has alleged information on Apple US website misled customers about their rights. The website told users experiencing error 53 that: "If the screen or any other part on your iPhone or iPad was replaced somewhere else, contact Apple Support about pricing information for out-of-warranty repairs."
Apple, who refused to comment on the case when it was first lodged against it, has reportedly denied any wrongdoing.
The Guardian reports that the firm said that the undercover calls cannot be considered as breaches because consumer law does not exist in "hypothetical circumstances". It added that real customers who had called it would have received other information that informed them of their rights under consumer law.
Apple has also rubbished the ACCC's claims about its website, saying that this was only referring to the conditions of the company's own limited warranty, and has pointed out that it has set up an error 53 outreach programme and offered replacements or repairs for many of the phones referred to in the ACCC's case.
Apple might find itself in legal trouble here in the UK, too. London-based barrister Richard Colbey said last year that Error 53 could be viewed as an offence under the Criminal Damage Act 1971.
"It is hard to see how something which ceases to work in this way could be said to be of reasonable quality, one of the determinants of which is durability," he said.
"The law states: 'A person who without lawful excuse destroys or damages any property belonging to another, intending to destroy or damage any such property or being reckless as to whether any such property would be destroyed or damaged shall be guilty of an offence.'" µ
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