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By: Meghan Murphy,

Shattered your iPhone 6 screen? Before having it fixed—beware third-party repairs. iPhone users around the world are outraged at the “Error 53” message appearing on their screens after updating to the newest iOS software.[1] As The Guardian reported recently, iPhone 6, 6S and 6+ users are relating countless stories of needing their shattered screens fixed, and going to a local merchant to have the work done.[2] Sometimes in the course of these repairs, the original home button was damaged and replaced.[3] Repaired well, these phones worked for months—until they attempted to update the iOS software as Apple recommends, and received the “Error 53” message before their phones became unusable.[4]

The problem appears to be in the hardware—often within the course of screen repair, the hardware connecting the fingerprint sensor on the home button could be damaged.[5] When the software attempts to update, it runs a diagnostic to make sure that all of the hardware is intact and working—and if the diagnostic finds a non-original home button, it shuts the entire phone down.[6] Apple claims this is a security measure, to make sure that no one can tamper with the home button or install another fingerprint sensor to gain access to someone else’s phone.[7] Even if this is the case, such an all-encompassing security measure seems extreme, especially considering customers had no notice that it would occur.[8]

Seattle firm PCVA agreed—and filed a class action lawsuit against Apple on February 5th, 2016.[9] As a firm press release stated, “We believe that Apple may be intentionally forcing    users to use their repair services, which cost much more than most third party repair shops. Where you could get your screen replaced by a neighborhood repair facility for $50-80, Apple charges $129 or more. There is incentive for Apple to keep end users from finding alternative methods to fix their products.”[10] However, in the interim, business savvy Apple took a U-turn and now claims now that “[diagnostic] test was designed to check whether Touch ID works properly before the device leaves the factory, and wasn’t intended to affect customers.”[11] As of February 18th, Apple is now providing new software available in iOS update 9.2.1, which they say will restore previously “bricked” devices, and offering reimbursements to those who paid for out-of-warranty device replacements.[12]

The future of the lawsuit is unclear at this juncture. While Apply has clearly attempted to mitigate the damage by restoring old devices and offering reimbursements, surely many loyal Apple customers are still angry at Apple’s actions. It is possible that even with the software fix, miffed customers will still want to proceed with the lawsuit—although perhaps with a different spin. Only time will tell.

 

 

[1] Miles Brignall, “‘Error 53’ fury mounts as Apple software update threatens to kill your iPhone,” Guardian (Feb. 5, 2016, 1:59 PM), http://www.theguardian.com/money/2016/feb/05/error-53-apple-iphone-software-update-handset-worthless-third-party-repair.

[2] Id.

[3] Jack Nicas, “‘Error 53′: Your Repaired iPhone Is Dead,” Wall Street J. Blog (Feb. 5, 2016, 4:07 PM), http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2016/02/05/apple-error-message-killing-iphones/?mod=trending_now_4.

[4] Id.

[5] Brignall, supra note 1.

[6] Id.

[7] Chris Johnston, “Apple says iPhone ‘Error 53′ is to protect customers’ security,” guardian (Feb. 6, 2016, 8:57 PM), http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/feb/06/apple-says-iphone-error-53-is-to-protect-customers-security.

[8] Nicas, supra note 3.

[9] Miles Brignall, “Apple under pressure as lawyers pledge action over ‘Error 53’ codes,” Guardian (Feb. 8, 2016, 11:56 AM), http://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/feb/08/apple-under-pressure-lawyers-error-53-codes.

[10] “Class Action Lawsuit: Apple IPhone ‘Error 53,’” PCVA Law Firm (Feb. 5, 2016), http://www.pcvalaw.com/apple-iphone-error-53-lawsuit/ (last visited Feb. 23, 2016).

[11] “If you see error 53 and your iPhone or iPad gets stuck on the ‘Connect to iTunes‘ screen,” Apple https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT205628 (last modified Feb. 19, 2016).

[12] Id.

 

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