Consumer watchdog takes Apple to court

ACCC takes iPhone-maker to court

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has launched legal action against Apple in the Federal Court over the iPhone maker’s approach to third-party repairs.

The ACCC said that it had launched an investigation into Apple’s approach towards third-party repairs after reports about an error code that appeared on iPads and iPhones following an iOS update.

Many of the people who report ‘error 53’ had previously had their devices’ screens repaired by third parties, the ACCC said.

“The ACCC investigation revealed that Apple appears to have routinely refused to look at or service consumers’ defective devices if a consumer had previously had the device repaired by a third party repairer, even where that repair was unrelated to the fault,” the competition and consumer watchdog said in a statement.

“Under the Australian Consumer Law, there are a number of ‘consumer guarantees’ regarding the quality, suitability for purpose and other characteristics of goods and services, and consumers are entitled to certain remedies at no cost where goods and services do not comply with the consumer guarantees.”

According to the ACCC, having part of a product repaired or replaced by a third party doesn’t automatically void a consumer’s right to a free remedy if a product is faulty.

“Consumer guarantee rights under the Australian Consumer Law exist independently of any manufacturer’s warranty and are not extinguished simply because a consumer has goods repaired by a third party,“ ACCC chairperson Rod Sims said in a statement..

“Denying a consumer their consumer guarantee rights simply because they had chosen a third-party repairer not only impacts those consumers but can dissuade other customers from making informed choices about their repair options including where they may be offered at lower cost than the manufacturer.”

The ACCC is seeking to have a court-imposed fine levied on Apple, as well force the company to change its approach.

In late 2013, the ACCC accepted a court-enforceable undertaking from the company relating to its consumer guarantees. At the time the ACCC said it was concerned that Apple employees had been misrepresenting consumers’ rights.

Last month the ACCC delivered an important win to Apple, knocking back an application lodged by a group of banks that sought to band together in an attempt to force the company to allow them access to the iPhone’s NFC capabilities.

Apple has been approached for comment.

A case management is scheduled for 21 April in Melbourne.

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