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‘Error 53’ proves costly for Apple as Aussie court slaps $7 million fine

The hardcore iPhone lovers would have found it hard to believe it when Apple (AAPL) made it official a few months ago that certain versions of the iconic smartphone had some flaws. Now, it seems the company itself is struggling to come to terms with the fact that its popular phones and tablet computers are susceptible to scrutiny.

This week, the tech giant’s efforts to convince an Australian court it is not liable to compensate iPhone and iPad users who were confronted with the infamous ‘error 53’ failed. The error was associated with a software malfunction that made Apple devices, which were earlier repaired by third parties, inoperable. The court slapped a fine of $6.8 million on the company for infringing on consumers’ rights.

In a lawsuit that dates back to 2016, the jury held that by declining to repair the faulty devices Apple had violated users’ rights, while misleading scores of customers about the terms of the warranty. The court rejected Apple’s contention that it wilfully bricked the phones to prevent users from having third-party sensors –  which according to the company are potentially malicious –  installed on the devices.

Thousands of iPhone users were left helpless when their phones stopped working after a software update. What irked them most was the indifferent response they receive from the Apple service centers, denying remedy even to users who had just had the faulty screens of their phones replaced by third parties.

The court rejected Apple’s contention that it wilfully bricked the phones to prevent users from installing third-party sensors on them

While tendering an apology to customers for ‘error 53’ and slowing down some of the older versions of iPhone, the company promised to plug the security loophole. The company, which had already agreed to compensate as many as 5,000 customers for the software snag, is learned to be taking measures to ensure compliance with the Australian Consumer Law by imparting training to employees on warranty.

Customers escalated their complaint against Apple after a software update released by the company to restore the unusable devices failed to fix the problem satisfactorily. Finding merit in the complaints, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission filed a lawsuit against the company in the Federal Court of Australia in April last year.

Later, an undercover probe launched by the agency, involving Apple retailers in the country, revealed that employees told customers they were not entitled to solutions for devices earlier repaired by third parties.

Hurt by the trade war tensions between the U.S. and China almost all the stocks in the tech sector were trading in red today. Apple shares dropped nearly 2% in the early trading hours, continuing the downtrend started a week ago.

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