A court in Australia has fined Apple $9m for making misleading or false statements about their consumer rights to clients who complained about faulty iPads and iPhones.
The Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC) sued Apple US and its Australian subsidiary after investigating consumer complaints regarding “error 53”, which disabled certain iPads and iPhones after the owners installed an updated version of the iOS operating system.
Apple admitted that between February 2015 and February 2016, it misled 275 Australian clients by telling them via client-service phone calls, in-store and on the web that they no longer qualified for remedies such as replacement or repair because their device had been fixed by a third party.
The $9m fine is one of the highest ever for a contravention of consumer legislation.
ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court summarised the court’s conclusions that if an iPad or iPhone had been repaired by an individual not affiliated with Apple, this did not, and could not culminate in the removal of consumer guarantees, or the consumer’s right to a solution ceasing to apply.
The only exception is where the third party damages the product.
Court continued by saying that international firms have to make sure that their return policies comply with local consumer legislation or face ACCC action.
The court also heard that Apple was offering refurbished iPads and iPhones to clients to replace the faulty ones. The ACCC said that consumers have a right to a refund if the product suffers a key failure, or if they prefer a replacement, then a new device.
Apple responded by saying that they will continue to do all that they can to provide an excellent service to all of their Australian customers.
According to the ACCC, Apple has now launched an “outreach program” to reimburse nearly 5,000 clients whose devices became useless because of “error 53”. It will also improve staff training regarding correct procedures and consumer legislation.