Apple expected to settle iPhone repairs case with ACCC

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Apple expected to settle iPhone repairs case with ACCC

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission looks to be close to settling with Apple over the iPhone maker's repair policy.

The consumer watchdog was scheduled to meet with Apple in court yesterday, after taking the vendor to court for allegedly making false, misleading or deceptive representations about customer's rights to compensation over the infamous "error 53".

The error occurred when a difference was detected between data stored on the device and data on Apple's servers in relation to hardware components. This resulted in some Apple devices essentially being bricked after downloading an iOS update.

After adjourning the case once again, justice Michael Lee ordered the ACCC to file a statement of agreed facts by 15 June, along with the orders it proposed to seek and any joint submissions. The two will appear in court again on 18 June.

The settlement, which was first reported by Lawyerly, was confirmed to CRN by a source close to the matter.

The ACCC began proceedings against Apple in April last year, claiming the company denied remedies to customers that received the error warning if they had taken their iPhone or iPad to a third party for repairs, even if it was unrelated such as replacing a cracked screen.

Customers were met with the following message on Apple's support page when looking for a fix to error 53:

"If the screen on your iPhone or iPad was replaced at an Apple service centre, Apple Store, or Apple authorised service provider, contact Apple support. 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 watchdog claimed that Apple was breaking Australian Consumer Law by not providing customers with a free remedy as the product was not fit for purpose, and was seeking pecuniary penalties, injunctions, declarations, compliance program orders, corrective notices and costs.

The Federal Court then referred Apple and the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission to mediation over the claims. Assisted dispute resolution took place over three occasions, the details of the outcome were not made public. 

The ACCC has already copped some flak from the court when in May, justice Lee said that the watchdog had engaged in improper conduct when one of its senior investigators called Apple stores falsely complaining about a broken device.

The investigator obtained evidence from these calls when he was told by Apple store employees he was not entitled to a free remedy.

While the judge conceded that the ACCC obtained the evidence by making false statement to force admissions, he said the "covert activity" was not serious enough to rule out the evidence completely.

An ACCC spokesperson told CRN that the organisation was unable to comment on the matter.

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