Apple could face class-action lawsuit over ‘Error 53’

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touchid
Unauthorized repairs could brick your iPhone.
Photo: Apple

A U.S. law firm is considering filing a class-action lawsuit against Apple for the “Error 53” security measure that permanently disables iPhones that have been fixed by unauthorized repair shops instead of Apple’s Genius Bar.

Controversy surrounding the Error 53 message erupted last week after it was found that repairs involving Touch ID can potentially brick iPhones without any warning. Apple insists Error 53 is a feature of iOS, but many have pointed out that the company appears to be using it as a tool to keep iPhone users from getting their devices repaired by anyone but Apple Stores.

Seattle law firm PCVA thinks Apple might be in violation of consumer-protection laws, according to The Guardian. The firm has put out a call for victims of Error 53 to get in touch and says it will to represent victims for free.

“We believe Apple may be intentionally forcing users to use their repair services, which cost much more than most third-party repair shops,” PCVA said in a statement. “There is incentive for Apple to keep end users from finding alternative methods to fix their products. Think of it this way: let’s say you bought a car, and had your alternator replaced by a local mechanic. Under Apple’s strategy, your car would no longer start because you didn’t bring it to an official dealership. They intentionally disable your car because you tried to fix it yourself. That is wrong.”

Apple could also face legal challenges in the United Kingdom. London barrister Richard Colbey, of Lamb Chambers, said the security measure could be considered a breach of basic consumer laws as outlined in the Criminal Damage Act 1971.

Apple has not yet commented on the issue, other than releasing a statement that Error 53 is a security feature of iOS 9 that prevents unauthorized access to Touch ID and the Secure Enclave on iPhones that contains fingerprint data and other info.

“This security measure is necessary to protect your device and prevent a fraudulent Touch ID sensor from being used,” Apple’s rep told press last week. “If a customer encounters Error 53, we encourage them to contact Apple Support.”