Apple Disabled iPhones due to 3rd Party Repair

John Lister's picture

Apple has been fined US $6.6 million after remotely disabling iPhones that had been repaired independently. Regulators ruled it was wrong to claim the phone owners have violated their repair warranties.

The ruling came in a court case brought by the Australian Competitor and Consumer Commission. It's similar to the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) but with a more emphasis on protecting consumer rights.

The case stemmed from a 2016 software update that disabled "unidentified" touch sensors, a part of the phone screen. With the sensor disabled, it became impossible to use the phone as it effectively no longer had a touchscreen.

This was a major problem for anyone who had had their phone screen replaced by a third-party repairer who hadn't sourced the screen from Apple itself. At the time Apple said the move was a necessary security measure to protect customers from a "fraudulent Touch ID sensor" being used.

Customers Were Misled

Apple told at least 275 customers in Australia affected by these problems that they were no longer eligible for a remedy such as repair, replacement or refund. (Source:

In it's ruling, the court pointed out that Australian law did not allow Apple to void its legal obligations regarding faulty devices simply because a third party had carried out a repair. That meant it had misled the customers by telling them they were ineligible for a remedy and it's these misleading statements that broke consumer law.

Apple will have to pay a fine of nine million Australian dollars. It has also agreed to put clearer information about warranty rights on its website and train its staff better to avoid making misleading statements. (Source:

Refurbished Replacements Unacceptable

The court also ordered that if customers are entitled to a replacement because their phone develops a fault under warranty, they should get a new handset where available, rather than a refurbished unit.

The situation on third-party repairs and warranties in the US is somewhat more complicated and varies from state to state. Several states have considered or implemented a "right to repair" law that guarantees customers can get devices repaired by a third party without voiding a warranty.

What's Your Opinion?

Does the ruling and fine sound fair? Should customers be allowed to get a device repaired by a third party without voiding the warranty? Should Apple have disabled the touchscreen units in the first place?

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Dennis Faas's picture

I have never owned an Apple phone and was not aware that such "terms" were enforced on how an iPhone can and cannot be repaired. I agree that third parties should be able to repair the phone and customers have the right to choose where their phones are repaired.

That said I also agree that using third party parts (parts not made by Apple) can be a huge security risk, especially those made in China - because you simply don't know if there is firmware installed on the parts that could allow for remote hacking. That would be a huge nightmare for Apple, considering they pride themselves on the security of their phones.

If they can detect a non-Apple screen or part by remote they could certainly make it so that the operating system would reject the part if it is not 100% Apple hardware. That would force third party repair shops to only use 100% Apple hardware. Problem solved.

ronbh's picture

Apple hides behind the guise of security to prevent 3rd party repairs.
It is not just as simple as using Apple parts, in many cases apple will not sell the required part.
There should be a "right to repair law" for all products , just not automobiles
For a lot of good information on this check out Louis Rossmann channel on you tube.

plamonica_3840's picture

Security aside (we know that parts from some countries may come with preinstalled malicious code)

Apple products have had the advantage of Apple tightly controlling all the hardware and software on it's products. Let's look for a second at a Windows PC. Microsoft wrote the software but had to do so in a way that allowed it to run on hardware they did not make or even control the spec for, there were shall we say stability issues. Apple from the get go made the hardware and the OS, with that kind of tight control they had a stable device.

When the iPhone came out they kept the same system in place, you can't have iOS unless you have an Apple manufactured device where all parts are designed to spec by Apple, the iPhone. Now here come these 3rd party repair parts,threatening to upset this strict control. With Apple not controlling the spec this places non Apple parts into the device, these parts may not meet the spec of the original part exactly and create 'issues' with the device.

Bottom line, Apple has been able to get away with this for a very long time, could this spell the end of that control? This could be a huge problem for Apple.

Disclaimer: I have never owned an iPhone, never will. There are 6 working Windows phones in the wild, I own 2 of them.