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Australian Consumer Watchdog Sues Apple Over iPad Marketing 193

Posted by Soulskill
from the does-not-stand-up-to-vigorous-kangaroo-attack dept.
Fluffeh writes "Australia's competition regulator will today take iconic technology giant Apple to court for advertising its new iPad tablet as featuring '4G' speeds — which are not supported on Australian telecommunications networks. One of the key features of the new iPad is support for 4G speeds, however, the 4G speeds which the new iPad supports will not be available in Australia, with Apple's technical specifications page only listing it as supporting the 700Mhz and 2100Mhz spectrum bands, neither of which are being used by Australian telcos to provide 4G services. The case may be a bit shaky, though, as Apple does state in the fine print: '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.'"
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Australian Consumer Watchdog Sues Apple Over iPad Marketing

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  • by whoever57 (658626) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @10:36PM (#39492559) Journal

    It's like the release of the Ipone 4GS in the US -- the ads focused on SIRI, but when people complain, Apple then says "It's BETA". That's misleading and frankly dishonest, but probably legal in the USA.

    This appears to be just the same: advertise 4G, and in the small print, point out that you will probably never get 4G. It's dishonest.

    • by _xen (79742) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @11:07PM (#39492817)

      This appears to be just the same: advertise 4G, and in the small print, point out that you will probably never get 4G. It's dishonest.

      Moreover outright dishonesty is not an element the ACCC needs to prove. The claim need not even be false, it need only be misleading

      The relevant provision in the new Australian Consumer Law which replaces the old s52 Trade Practices Act 1974 and which the legislature in its inimitable wisdom has chosen to bury in Schedule 2 to the Competition and Consumer Act 2010, reads:

      18 (1). A person must not, in trade or commerce, engage in conduct that is misleading or deceptive or is likely to mislead or deceive.

    • Seems like Apple could have avoided the issue by advertising "4G LTE" instead of "4G".
      • by tlhIngan (30335)

        Seems like Apple could have avoided the issue by advertising "4G LTE" instead of "4G".

        Actually, that would make things worse, as LTE is what doesn't work.

        Now, I don't know the Australian market, so I don't know if there are as many non-LTE (i.e., HSPA+) phones being marketed as "4G" ("faux G") phones. I do know a large number of 4G Andorid phones are really just "4G" phones (T-Mobile was one of them advertising 4G early on, but both AT&T and T-mo do it. Hell, didn't the iPhone get an update that changed

        • Technically nothing is "4G" according to the 4G specification. While Verizon's and Sprint's implementation is closer to the spec than AT&T, it runs a slower speed than the spec allows. WiMAX 2 and LTE Advanced will be officially 4G, nothing out there is yet. This is also partly on the 4G spec body that allowed all to use "4G" when it was not.
  • by hawguy (1600213) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @10:37PM (#39492567)

    The article says that the fine print may make the case shaky:

    The case may be a bit shaky, though, as Apple does state in the fine print: '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.'"

    But why can the fine print supercede what's in the main ad? How can an ad for a 4G device in Australia be legal if that device will never be able to work in Australia? They can list the 4G for USA and Canada on the specs page. As another example, if an ad screams "Unlimited 4G data!!!" in large print, they shouldn't be able to write "Unlimited plans subject to data caps that we won't reveal to you and throttling back to speeds slower than 2G speeds" down in the fine print. If it says "Unlimited" in the large print, then it really should be "Unlimited". Fine print shouldn't be able to contradict the main body of the ad.

    • by robbak (775424) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @10:50PM (#39492695) Homepage

      The Australian courts have answered this many times: It does not. Fine print does not even trump customers logical expectations.

      The only thing that may save Apple is that the boxes have quite a large sticker on the back that states that the 4G capability is not compatible with any Australian network. Assuming that Apple has not advertised 4G in any Australian-targeted advertising, they should be OK.

      If they have, then fines and forced offers of refunds will be in their future.

    • by bloodhawk (813939) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @02:11AM (#39493653)
      The fine print doesn't make the case shaky at all. In Australia if your ad can be misconstrued as advertising something they don't provide, then no amount of fine print, small print, eula or any other disclaimer they want to add will excuse them from the false advertising laws. They are there to protect consumers from being tricked into making a purchase based on misleading advertising and the litmus test is whether a reasonable person could be fooled into thinking that buying a IPAD 3 would give them 4G access in Australia, given the ads that is a pretty definite yes.
    • by Dhalka226 (559740)

      I've often wondered why we tolerate fine print that contradicts, in any way, the actual statements made. Whenever I see a commercial with some claim and an asterisk, my mind usually fills in the bottom portion (which typically shoots off the screen too fast for me to actually read) as "* not really."

      In a way it's kind of fun. I think it gives a strange insight into how advertisers perceive us.

      I suppose the problem is it's hard to come up with a hard-and-fast definition for a contradiction. Take some

  • Media Watch (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    ABC's Media Watch mentioned this as part of a larger look into media coverage of the new iPad release [abc.net.au]. Summary doesn't quite make clear that 4G is available in Australia, it's just that the iPad won't support it.

  • If I had a company that made the relevant toys, could I advertise them as "5G", or even "6G"?

    Who decides what qualifies?

    • by mjwx (966435) on Wednesday March 28, 2012 @12:30AM (#39493249)

      If I had a company that made the relevant toys, could I advertise them as "5G", or even "6G"?

      Who decides what qualifies?

      The ITU (International Telecommunications Union), but telco's have co-opted this to the point that the ITU has said, there will be no 5G.

      The original ITU 4G specification was 100 Mbps fixed and 40 Mbps mobile, not even LTE can guarantee this, LTE Enhanced (Advanced, cant remember which) would have been the first but US telco's wanted to brand HSPA+ as 4G and the ITU capitulated.

      BTW, Ipads and Iphone dont even support HSPA+

  • by msobkow (48369) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @10:54PM (#39492731) Homepage Journal

    With all their money in the bank, Apple couldn't afford to produce market-specific ads for different countries?

    I hope they get their asses sued into the ground for penny-pinching in such a fashion. Given the profitability of the damned things, they sure as hell can afford to use regional advertising!

  • I have the verizon ipad 3 in the US. Verizon LTE is pretty impressive where I live. I can't imagine what real 4G would be like....
  • maybe we could start actually prosecuting people for war crimes?

    it seems like you can kill millions of people and get away with it, but if your advertising is misleading, oh my god, the consumer watchdogs will sue you.

    maybe if someone could figure out you can 'consume' warfare, then maybe we could have a 'consumers reports' test.

    i am not sure what the 'product' is here though. freedom? government itself?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @11:23PM (#39492929)

    The Commerce Comission (equivalent of the ACCC in Oz, or the US FTC) in New Zealand is also considering the same action against Apple (and there are exactly zero 4G networks here)
    Commerce Commission investigating Apple iPad 4G adverts after Complaint [stuff.co.nz]

  • They cannot all be 3G since EVDO has a maximum 2.45 Mbit/s to 3.1 Mbit/s. EVDO either has to be demoted to 2.5G or HSPA+ and above has to be considered de-facto "4G".

    To me, if the typical speed of HSPA+ in some markets is "higher" than LTE 4G in other markets then that means that HSPA+ is 4G effectively.

  • It's not 100% clear that the regulator will have a case on the specific point mentioned-- it is factually correct that the iPad connects to 4G networks. Whilst on one level you might argue that this is playing on public ignorance as far as the *domestic* market is concerned, the iPad is clearly also a product specifically designed with travel in mind. So advertising on the basis of a feature that works somewhere internationally, albeit not domestically, could be argued to be legitimate and that it is up to

  • It is the same WiFi+4G model sold in the USA, and it will currently only work with USA 4G, AND with All/most Australian 3G networks, and I would guess that a firmware upgrade may fix the problem, in time. It isn't a dud, it's just not what people think when they first glance at it. The warning is plane sight when you go to buy on-line. I'm guessing that Apple will get a caution, and they will have to make the 4G conditions a bit more obvious. Meanwhile my local garage sells petrol cheap, oh, as I pull in th

    • by Barny (103770)

      May not be a lie, but it is misleading.

      It gives you the idea that you will, in the right areas, get 4G in Australia with these things.

      You wont.

      ACCC suits are in the order of $1M per violation.

  • For ads in Germany, Apple already had to remove the 4G stuff ...

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