Apple Could Face Lawsuit After Software Update Ruins Some iPhones
Lawyers are taking a long look at Apple’s practice of disabling newer iPhones that have been repaired by third-parties.
People who have iPhones running iOS 9 sometimes see “Error 53” when trying to restore the phone through Apple’s iTunes software after being prompted to connect the device to a computer. The error, which prevents the user from using the device, seems to occur on the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6S, and iPhone 6S Plus after their Touch ID sensors are repaired by unapproved retailers.
The Guardian first reported on the error message last week. On Tuesday, The Guardian published another report indicating law firms in the U.S. and U.K are considering bringing lawsuits against Apple for rendering devices useless after repair.
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Apple’s support page acknowledges that phones with repaired or replaced home buttons—which is where the Touch ID fingerprint sensor is located—can prompt the error message.
Soon after Apple (AAPL) first announced its Touch ID technology in 2013, tech news site iMore revealed that fingerprint sensors are paired with processor installed in the devices. At that time, if a user damaged and replace the home button, the fingerprint recognition feature would no longer work.
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With the release of iOS 9, however, Apple is taking its security measures one step further by disabling repaired devices altogether. Apple’s reasoning for the new security feature is to prevent unauthorized access by unapproved vendors to a user’s fingerprint data.
The company suggests that users who encounter the issue contact Apple support. The Guardian’s report, however, indicates that there is no way to fix a device after it begins displaying the error message, and that customers must buy a new iPhone.
The question is whether Apple’s new approach in handling unauthorized phone repairs is an effort to protect customer privacy. Seattle-based law firm PCVA views it as a way to boost Apple’s bottom line, according to PCVA’s website.
And because some users report having used a repaired iPhone for several months before updating to iOS 9, the lawyers may be on to something. Apple provided no warning to users prior to the software update, which turned a previously usable—albeit repaired—device into something that no longer worked.
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On a web page it created about the problem, PCVA’s accuses Apple of trying to force customers to spending more on repairs through Apple stores instead of using cheaper alternatives. The site highlights the difference by showing the cost for screen repairs by Apple, which charges $129, and third-party vendors that the firm says charges $50 to $80 for the same service.
PCVA is asking anyone who has been impacted by the error to use the contact form on the page to talk with lawyers about joining a potential class-action suit.
Fortune has contacted Apple asking for a comment about the matter.