Apple sued over 'misleading' 4G iPad

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Apple sued over 'misleading' 4G iPad

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) today sought “urgent relief” from the Federal Court to stop Apple promoting its new iPad as 4G-capable.

The competition watchdog alleged Apple's promotions of 4G support were misleading because the devices could not be used on Australian 4G networks.

The only mobile network in Australia that offers 4G at present is Telstra, which uses 1800 MHz spectrum, backed up in some area by HSPA+ using the 850 MHz spectrum. 

Apple, however, has designed the new iPad's 4G radios to only support the 700 MHz spectrum adopted by the US’ major carriers, AT&T and Verizon

The technology giant this morning told the Federal Court it would reimburse those customers misled about the iPad's Australian 4G compatibility. In the first half of proceedings Apple's lawyers denied the company had misrepresented the product.

"At no point in any promotional material for which Apple was responsible has Apple said at any time that the new Apple device is compatible (with Telstra 4G)," Paul Anastassiou SC said, as reported by The Australian

"Prior to the launch of the product there was significant press pointing out that the device is not compatible with the Telstra 4G LTE network."

The ACCC alleged Apple’s use of “4G” contravenes several sections of Australian Consumer Law and will seek “final orders including injunctions, pecuniary penalties, corrective advertising and refunds to consumers affected.”

The consumer watchdog wants Apple to publish stickers on packaging and correct local advertising, a push Apple is standing firm against.

“Consumers who have purchased or are considering purchasing an "iPad with WiFi + 4G" should ensure that they have a proper understanding of the mobile data networks which this iPad can directly access by a SIM card,” the ACCC said. 

The new iPad also supports UMTS, HSPA and HSPA+ on 850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz spectrum as well as GSM/EDGE networks on 850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz.

Despite its bold use of 4G to promote the iPad worlwide, Apple does note in fine print that its 4G LTE radios are only supported by AT&T and Verizon in the US and Bell, Rogers and Telus in Canada. 

Australian consumers won’t be the only ones potentially misled by Apple’s 4G claims, but so far other nations’ regulators have not reacted. 

Sweden’s TeliaSonera, which rolled out the world’s first 4G network, also used 1800 MHz spectrum, leaving its users in much the same Apple marketing predicament as Australians. 

Britain does not have 4G yet but is in the process [pdf] of following a European Union order to make 900 MHz and 1800 MHz spectrum available for 4G, or LTE and WiMax use.

Germany faces the same challenges, with Deutsche Telekom's 4G network deployed [pdf], for example, on 800 MHz, 1800 MHz and 2.6 GHz.   

The second half of today's Australian proceedings will resume in the afternoon. 

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