ACCC Is Gunning After Apple For Error 53 ‘Security Feature’

ACCC Is Gunning After Apple For Error 53 ‘Security Feature’

Last week, Apple came under fire for “bricking” iPhones that had undergone unauthorised, third-party repairs instead of going through the official iPhone Repair store. Now, the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC) is wading in to determine whether the so-called “Error 53” violates Australian consumer laws.

For those who missed last week’s story, Apple has begun targeting customers who elect to fix their damaged iPhones through unauthorised repair providers. According to Apple, this is a security feature designed to protect users when an iPhone’s Touch ID is detected to have been tampered with.

But to Apple’s critics, it’s a deliberate ploy to monopolise the phone repair market and “punish” users who refuse to go through the official channels.

In any event, the ACCC is now launching an investigation. The main point of contention is the lack of warning or redress offered to affected consumers, which may be a breach of the Competition and Consumer Act.

“In particular the ACCC is examining whether this practice contravenes the consumer guarantee and false and misleading representations provisions of the Australian Consumer Law (ACL),” the ACCC said in a statement. “The ACCC would also be concerned about any practices which restrict competition, including through access to parts or data.”

When the news blew up last week, Apple issued the following statement in a bid to set the record straight:

We take customer security very seriously and Error 53 is the result of security checks designed to protect our customers. iOS checks that the Touch ID sensor in your iPhone or iPad correctly matches your device’s other components. If iOS finds a mismatch, the check fails and Touch ID, including for Apple Pay use, is disabled. This security measure is necessary to protect your device and prevent a fraudulent Touch ID sensor from being used. If a customer encounters Error 53, we encourage them to contact Apple Support.

Apple has since set up an Error 53 help page. Sadly, there isn’t much joy here for customers who used unauthorised repair providers — instead, you just get a link to pricing information for out-of-warranty repairs.

We’re not sure where we stand on this one. On the one hand, Apple’s security policy does make sense, as there’s no way for its software to know why a phone’s Touch ID has been tampered with. On the other hand, Apple handled this whole thing pretty abysmally: the “feature” was never properly explained prior to its deployment and no explanation was initially given to affected customers. In short, people have a right to feel ripped off.

We’ll be updating the story with future developments as they happen.

[Via Gizmodo]


  • it will be interesting how this goes with the trans pacific partnership Australia is signing. it might mean that apple will end up suing and winning because the government did something to impede an American company

  • There’s also the fact that they could have simply disabled the ability to use the fingerprint scanner feature instead of bricking the entire phone.

    • Also, if the fingerprint scanner *is* working, but it can’t seem to recognise your fingerprint that day (say your finger has dried and cracked due to a lack of humidity), doesn’t it fall back to a PIN? In which case, why would anyone bother tampering with the fingerprint scanner? Breaking a PIN is easy from the point of view of anyone that wants access to your data.

    • The phone isn’t being bricked. Alarmist claim this to be the case.

      First hand knowledge here – I have replaced many a broken iPhone screen.
      If you are installing a new screen, INSTALL THE ORIGINAL TOUCH ID BUTTON.
      Not very difficult to do, takes a whole 30 seconds to remove/install.

      If you don’t do this, the touchID sensor is disabled, and rightly so. I don’t know who made the sensor in the replacement one, is it secure? Does it have a flaw allowing ex-filtration of data? With the amount of pressure being put on Apple and other phone manufactuers to allow government access to their encryption, I’m glad Apple’s system is locked down, otherwise what good is it?

      The phone is not bricked, you just need to enter a passcode instead of using your finger, which also disables ApplyPay etc.

      Simple fix? Install the original button and you’re good to go.

      This has been around since the 5S was released, nothing new except it now has an error code attached.

      Real issue is if your button is damaged, which while still possible, would be a lot less rarer than a smashed screen where the button can be reused.

      • So you’re saying that the problem is just dodgy repairs? interesting. it wouldn’t surprise me if repairers simply don’t swap out the button as you suggest (or include that step in their 1/2 page instruction sheet).

    • Apple care about money so yes they do care. They’ve been fined in the past for semi false advertising.

      • Fact: Apple pay little tax in this country
        Fact: Apple products are sold at a premium into the Australian market
        Fact: Apple’s slice of market share in Australia is higher than in most countries they sell their iPhone into
        Assumption: Apple could care less what the ACCC think or care to fine them
        Assumption: Given this “error” is tied with security, I predict should the ACCC decide to pursue this, it will cost Australian taxpayers a shitload and in the end the ACCC will throw in the towel.

        • Seeing as they fixed this with a software update it wasn’t really a ‘security’ issue and more a ‘try and make more money’ issue by charging for official repairs.

  • If they go after this, they should also be going after other manufacturers that only sell spare parts to so-called licensed repairers which just means they can maintain the price on out of warranty repairs. Rife in photography and other electronics where most parts are proprietary.

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