Apple is being sued again, this time by the Australian Competition and Consumer Authority (ACCC). Australia’s consumer watchdog has already commenced legal proceedings against the Silicon Valley giant, alleging that the tech company used a software update to disable iPhone devices that had cracked screens repaired by third parties, notes Reuters.

iPhone Apple Australian Error 53
JESHOOTS / Pixabay

Why the Australia regulator is suing Apple

If you have ever gotten your iPhone fixed by a third party, you may have come across Error 53. Error 53 not only made your phone unable to update but also pretty much useless to you.

In a court filing, the watchdog said that the Cupertino-based firm disabled or bricked hundreds of tablets and smartphones with a software update and then declined to unlock them on the grounds that the owners of the devices had them serviced by third-party repairers instead of Apple-approved repairers.

In a statement, ACCC Chairman Rod Sims, said, “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.”

The Australian Commission alleged after an investigation that the tech giant seems to have routinely declined to look at or service the defective devices if they had been repaired somewhere other than at an Apple repair store. The tech giant engaged in deceptive or misleading conduct and made misleading or false representations to its consumers about software updates, the documents said.

How Error 53 affects your iPhone

Apple customers who downloaded software updates between September 2014 and February 2016 and connected their devices to their PCs received an error message saying that the device could “not be restored and the device had stopped functioning,” said the regulator. And when those customers went to the tech company to get their devices fixed, they were told that “no Apple entity … was required to, or would, provide a remedy” for free, the filing added.

The Guardian was the first to reveal the error in February 2016. iPhone users who had gotten the home button of their iPhone 6 fixed by third-party repairers were complaining that the iOS 9 update completely wiped their iPhone and left them with just an Error 53 message on the screen.

Several said at the time that the problem could be with the hardware, whereas the U.S. firm said the issue was the result of security checks that were designed to protect customers. Later, with a new iOS update, the tech company fixed the issue. However, legal experts warned that the iPhone maker could have been acting illegally by deliberately bricking only those devices which were fixed by third parties.

The lawsuit was filed by the ACCC on Wednesday and is expected to take some months to resolve. The ACCC is seeking not only fines but also compliance program orders, declarations, pecuniary penalties, injunctions, corrective notices and costs. This means that if the ACCC wins, it will allow users to get their broken iPhone or iPad screen replaced cheaply while not breaching their right to get help from Apple’s Genius Bars.

Apple has still not commented on the Australian lawsuit.