No one saw this coming… The Guardian reports a number of law firms are considering lawsuits against Apple connected to the “Error 53” issue that disables iPhone 6 devices, when owners have unauthorized third-party repairs performed that affect the device’s Touch ID sensor.
It turns out Apple disables the iPhones of customers who have had unauthorized repairs on their devices. As explained in a thorough post from iFixit, a repair made by a third-party service using non-original components cannot pass a Touch ID validation check because mismatched parts don’t sync up properly.
An Apple spokesman said when an iPhone’s parts cannot be properly validated, due to a repair performed that affects the device’s Touch ID sensor, the error message is a safeguard put into place to keep both Touch ID, and the secure enclave that stores the owner’s fingerprint information, safe.
“We protect fingerprint data using a secure enclave, which is uniquely paired to the touch ID sensor. When iPhone is serviced by an authorised Apple service provider or Apple retail store for changes that affect the touch ID sensor, the pairing is re-validated. This check ensures the device and the iOS features related to touch ID remain secure. Without this unique pairing, a malicious touch ID sensor could be substituted, thereby gaining access to the secure enclave. When iOS detects that the pairing fails, touch ID, including Apple Pay, is disabled so the device remains secure.”
A barrister in the UK told the Guardian that Apple’s “reckless” policy of killing people’s iPhones following the software upgrade could potentially be viewed as an offense under the Criminal Damage Act 1971. That act makes it an offense to intentionally destroy the property of another.
Meanwhile, in the states, Seattle-based law firm, PVCA is laying the groundwork for a class action lawsuit against Apple, saying it will represent customers for free. The firm has outlined the issue on its website, saying:
We hope to find out why Apple implements a policy where end users aren’t free to choose someone other than Apple to repair their devices. 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.
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, and we hope to prove that it violates various consumer protection laws in the United States.
MacRumors reports that Apple may be quietly taking steps to soothe ruffled customer feathers by allowing some Apple Stores to replace third-party screens and other third-party components in order to fix the “Error 53” issue. Apple is said to be charging the standard out-of-warranty fee for such repairs.