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Apple accused of misleading advertising in Australia

updated 04:15 am EDT, Tue March 27, 2012

Apple iPad not '4G' says ACCC, consumer watchdog

Apple has been accused of misleading advertising by Australia's consumer watchdog the ACCC over its promotion of the new iPad as having 4G capabilities, as no Australian telco currently supports the 4G radio in the new iPad. The ACCC plans to lodge an urgent case before a Melbourne court tomorrow over the issue. It aims to seek 'injunctions, pecuniary penalties, corrective advertising and refunds to consumers affected.'

A statement issued by the government authority reads:

'The ACCC alleges that Apple's recent promotion of the new "iPad with WiFi + 4G" is misleading because it represents to Australian consumers that the product "iPad with WiFi + 4G" can, with a SIM card, connect to a 4G mobile data network in Australia, when this is not the case.'

The ACCC also urged consumers to 'have a proper understanding of the mobile data networks which this iPad can directly access by a SIM card,' before they proceed with any purchase.

In the US, Apple has created two models of its 4G-capable iPad, one for AT&T and the other for Verizon. The new iPad for AT&T's 4G LTE network uses both the 700MHz and 2100MHz frequencies, while the Verizon 4G LTE network uses the 700MHz spectrum only. The only Australian telco running a limited 4G LTE network is Telstra, although this operates on the 1800MHz band. Telstra itself, and other European carriers have also made similar complaints about Apple's 4G marketing.

It is also quite likely, though unconfirmed, that Samsung Australia may have officially broached the matter with the ACCC. 'I guess consumers will, if they buy the new iPad under the impression that it is 4G, be soon disappointed in their buying decision,' Tyler McGee, Samsung Australia's VP of telecommunications recently told The Sydney Morning Herald. He argued that Samsung's Galaxy Tab 8.9 4G, now on sale in the country, is the only tablet on the market that properly supported 4G in Australia.

However, while on the surface the Australian government agency's case against Apple may appear to be strong, the definition of what constitutes 4G has become highly debatable, largely because of the marketing actions taken by telcos in the US. In the US, HSPA+ has long been marketed as 4G, when technically it is only an evolved variation of 3G. A true 4G network is technically supposed to deliver theoretical download speeds of 100Mbps by definition.

It is this confusion that raised its head in the recent switch from the iPhone 4S showing 3G on AT&T's network to now show 4G instead, following the recent update to iOS 5.1. At the time, AT&T stated 'The iPhone 4S operates on AT&T's 4G HSPA+ network and as such, it is only appropriate that people see '4G' on the phone when they are connected to HSPA+.'

However, in Australia, telcos have steered clear of calling HSPA+ networks 4G in their marketing. Telstra has had an HSPA+ network in operation for some time, which it has marketed correctly as 3.5G. It is double the theoretical bandwidth of HSPA and can support download speeds up to a theoretical maximum of 42Mbps. Although the new iPad can access data on the Telstra network at double the speed of the old model, Apple may have a difficult time convincing Australian authorities to accept the wider definition of HSPA+, which has become accepted in the US industry as a 4G service.

In the meantime, it is likely that Samsung executives will be sitting on the sidelines taking some enjoyment at Apple's discomfort, particularly as the two are locked in ongoing legal battles in the country over highly publicized patent infringement cases. [via The Sydney Morning Herald]

By Electronista Staff
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  1. SunSeeker

    Mac Enthusiast

    Joined: Apr 2001


    More likely...

    ...that consumers will be more disappointed by real issues like spam apps, fragmentation and an inability to easily upgrade to the next new operating system on a device that is no more than 12 months old

  1. Eriamjh

    Addicted to MacNN

    Joined: Oct 2001


    Read the fine print...

    You Australians!

  1. Jeronimo2000

    Forum Regular

    Joined: Aug 2001



    From what I can read on, Apple goes out of its way to make it clear that 4G isn't available everywhere, including a footnote saying "4G LTE is supported only on AT&T and Verizon networks in the US; and on Bell, Rogers and Telus networks in Canada. Data plans sold separately. See your carrier for details.". Of course they call the device "iPad with WiFi + 4G", because let's face it: the thing HAS 4G. Just not the carriers.

    You could just as well sue Apple for including the word "WiFi", even if you don't have a WiFi router at home - FALSE ADVERTISING!! SUE THE b*******!

  1. ASathin8R

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Oct 2010



    You say "potato" I say "iPotato"

  1. Grendelmon

    Mac Enthusiast

    Joined: Dec 2007


    Yup, typical reader response.

    The box says 4G, all of the marketing material blatantly states 4G, but 4G won't work in Australia. That's the customer's fault.

    They even go out of their way to list available data carriers in AU, but only state 4G LTE works only in the U.S. and Canada in a tiny footnote at the bottom of their website.

  1. panjandrum

    Junior Member

    Joined: Dec 2004


    One thing I've always liked about Australia

    One of the things I've always liked most about Australia is that you can be in a public park, beside a nice little river full of crocodiles, and there will be no warning signs whatsoever. Furthermore, you can actually order a sandwich with a substance called "Vegemite" on it (which is far, far more dangerous than being eaten whole by a croc), again with absolutely NO warning that you are about to taste the single most despicable thing every created by man. It is so refreshing to visit a country that isn't a nanny-state - where personal responsibility is a part of life. I hope that this isn't a sign that Australia is on the way to becoming a country full of whining nancy-boys. :-)

  1. testudo

    Forum Regular

    Joined: Aug 2001



    If Samsung or Motorola were advertising their 4G phones as working with 4G, and they were the ones in the crosshairs, you'd all be defending them as well, and that people just need to read the fine print. Oh, wait, it's android, so no.

    I'm sure that if Microsoft put out a large advertising campaign that talked about how their OS was hacker proof, and then, in tiny print on a web site, pointed out that this was only the case when the computer running windows was in a locked room with no internet connection, no lights, and no power, you all would be saying the same thing. "Read the fine print!"

  1. DaJoNel

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Aug 2010


    In the case of Android phones

    Yes, read the fine print. Not the manufacturer's fault if the chip is in there. In the case of Microsoft, no that's ridiculous. What are you smoking?

    For assuming so much about us, you know so little. We're all using common sense here. Our other arguments are against the legitimately insensible things about Android.

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