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Apple May Need To Rethink 4G Claims (and Pay Refunds) In More Countries 105

Posted by timothy
from the bathing-in-lawyer-saliva dept.
redletterdave writes "After the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) won a battle with Apple after alleging the Cupertino-based company was misleading customers about its third-generation iPad, authorities in other countries are now assessing the compatibility of the new iPad with local 4G LTE networks to see if their customers should deserve refunds too. The UK's Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) confirmed on Tuesday that it is investigating complaints of Apple's misleading '4G' claim, while Sweden and Denmark are also reportedly considering investigations, after agencies within both countries received 'several complaints' from customers about 4G connectivity. Even though these countries carry broad LTE coverage, the new iPad isn't supported on any of those networks."
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Apple May Need To Rethink 4G Claims (and Pay Refunds) In More Countries

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  • by imagined.by (2589739) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @12:00PM (#39510923)
    Currently, there's not a single commercial 4G network deployed anywhere on the planet. LTE is officially 3.9G, so every manufacturer or carrier that advertises 4G is bullshitting just as much as Apple. Which doesn't make it better, but still.
    • by UnknowingFool (672806) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @12:08PM (#39511067)
      I blame this part on the 4G standards body. If they had taken a hard stand when some carriers advertised "4G" when they were not, then AT&T and Apple and the like wouldn't have much room to argue. Instead there's some wiggle room as they can argue that 4G designation applies to them as well.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        Well yes, but if you'd been following, LTE only isn't considered 4G because of butthurt between its developers and the standards committee...
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by UnknowingFool (672806)
          LTE isn't considered 4G mostly because of the speed. Whereas HSPA+ are upgraded 3G networks that are faster theoretically than LTE.
          • by raitchison (734047) * <robert@aitchison.org> on Thursday March 29, 2012 @12:45PM (#39511717) Homepage Journal

            Faster theoretically maybe but not in reality, I've got a "4G" HSPA+ T-Mobile phone (which is the fastest of all the fake "4G" networks) and an AT&T LTE phone and where I can get an LTE signal it destroys the HSPA+ network. The fastest I've ever seen on the HSPA+ network was 5MB, the slowest LTE I;ve seen was 10MB.

            In any case IMO the blame does indeed fall with the ITU, they set the "4G" barrier artificially high so that LTE let alone WiMax wouldn't get there, which invited the carriers to say fuck it and start slapping the "4G" label on their existing 3G networks. If the ITU had just said that LTE and WiMax were 4G we wouldn't have this problem.

            • by cpu6502 (1960974)

              >>>HSPA+ network was 5MB, the slowest LTE I;ve seen was 10MB

              It sucks that they cap these at just 5 and 10 megabytes respectively. That's worse than my 12GB cap on dialup.

              • Not talking about data cap but data speeds, I rounded the numbers to the closest MB.

                • by cpu6502 (1960974)

                  Ahhh. What you did was equivalent to if I said the speed limit is 65 miles. Then it should be Mb/s (megabit per second). Or MB/s (megabyte per second).

            • I routinely get over 10 mbps at my house on the HSPA+ t-mobile network whenever I test it. It's actually fast enough that most of the time I don't realize when I forget to turn the wifi back on when I get home. Video calls are clear, browsing is snappy, and netflix streams cleanly. When I tether, either with the cable, or as wifi, its plenty fast for me to do my work, and all the things I normally do at home. Perhaps different markets respond differently, with different towers being busier or less busy,
              • I routinely get something over 300 baud at my house (in plain sight of a tower). Calls just might go through. Bringing up a web page on the browser is an exercise in patience and battery capacity. Forget streaming anything except invective language.

                I hate AT&T. Keep bragging and I might get to dislike you as well....

                • Not all towers carry all carriers. In fact, it's relatively uncommon for providers to share towers. (I worked in the wireless internet industry for quite a while). I see a garbage truck drive past my house on Wednesdays, but I only have my garbage picked up on Friday. It doesn't matter that I don't pay the Wednesday pickup company, dammit, it's a trash truck and I have trash!
              • Dunno, I've tried speed tests at various places in 4 different regions, Los Angeles County (where I live), San Diego, San Francisco Bay area and Las Vegas area and not gotten more than ~5.2MBPS even with 5 bars of HSPA+.

                On the LTE phone it's rare I can pull an LTE signal and where it's stuck on HSPA+ it's quite a bit slower than the T-Mobile HSPA+ (usually 2-3 MBPS)

                • California also has a couple more people than the suburbs of Austin, Tx, where I live. Likely, you're sharing some of those wavelengths with people watching netflix.
          • LTE is not a speed - it is a technology. So that comparison doesnt mean anything. And this is just nit picking but all the LTE implementations that I have read about are much faster than the HSPA+ networks but, again, that doesnt mean much since LTE can be of any speed.
            • According to the ITU, the specification for "4G" has a minimum speed. LTE nor WiMax can meet the speed specification but carriers like Sprint and Verizon have advertised their LTE and WiMax networks as "4G" but the ITU did not challenge them on it. This has allowed AT&T and others to be able to claim their 3.5G networks as "4G" as well as theoretically they are faster. In reality data speeds are subject to all sorts of throttling conditions.
              • interesting stuff! so after doing some more reading - 4G = minimum of 100Mbps if you are on a train or something, but as a pedestrian thats 1Gbps (holy moly!).

                is there a mobile network on the planet that is 4G compliant?

                but to make everything nice and opaque

                In March 2008, the International Telecommunications Union-Radio communications sector (ITU-R) specified a set of requirements for 4G standards, named the IMT-Advanced (International Mobile Telecommunications Advanced) specification, setting peak speed requirements for 4G service at 100 megabits per second (Mbit/s) for high mobility communication (such as from trains and cars) and 1 gigabit per second (Gbit/s) for low mobility communication (such as pedestrians and stationary users).[1]
                Since the above mentioned first-release versions of Mobile WiMAX and LTE support much less than 1 Gbit/s peak bit rate, they are not fully IMT-Advanced compliant, but are often branded 4G by service providers. On December 6, 2010, ITU-R recognized that these two technologies, as well as other beyond-3G technologies that do not fulfill the IMT-Advanced requirements, could nevertheless be considered "4G", provided they represent forerunners to IMT-Advanced compliant versions and "a substantial level of improvement in performance and capabilities with respect to the initial third generation systems now deployed".[2]

                from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/4G#Technical_definition [wikipedia.org]

                • is there a mobile network on the planet that is 4G compliant?

                  The short answer is no. LTE Advanced and WiMax 2 will be but have not been implemented yet.

      • by tlhIngan (30335) <slashdot AT worf DOT net> on Thursday March 29, 2012 @12:59PM (#39511907)

        I blame this part on the 4G standards body. If they had taken a hard stand when some carriers advertised "4G" when they were not, then AT&T and Apple and the like wouldn't have much room to argue. Instead there's some wiggle room as they can argue that 4G designation applies to them as well.

        Yeah, and it's highly annoying. If you want an LTE device (phone, stick, hotspot, whatever), you can't just look at 4G devices, because an annoyingly large number of them are really just HSPA+.

        Now, technically Apple sells the iPad as 4G, with LTE support. But since the iPad also supports HSPA+, if other HSPA+ devices are sold as "4G" devices, Apple's in the clear as it's just LTE is not supported and following everyone else's convention of calling HSPA+ "4G".

        Now if Apple sells it at 4G LTE, they're in trouble since the "LTE" part doesn't work.

        Heck, maybe at the end it'll clarify "faux G" from real 4G.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          "But it really is 4G, because HSPA+ is called 4G too" doesn't work because neither Apple nor users really consider HSPA as 4G.

          Seems like only LTE is marketed as 4G in Australia, for example.

          And even Apple's own ad [apple.com] says:

          And if you're in a location without a 4G LTE network, you'll still get access to fast 3G networks including HSPA, HSPA+, and DC-HSDPA.

        • by Carewolf (581105) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @01:54PM (#39512761) Homepage

          Outside of the US, only LTE has been advertised as 4G. You can call it a translation blunder if you like, but Apple is really the first manufacturer to call a non-LTE device 4G in many countries. This is the backlash.

  • The LTE modem doesn't work anywhere else in the world.

    Then there's the whole DC-HSPA+ 4G "Faux-G" debate.

    And, if you're on AT&T the new iPad will display 4G for HSPA+. Apple: fighting the corner of the users.

    • The basic confusion for the consumer is what is "4G". LTE and WiMax are almost 4G except for the speed. But speed is part of the spec. Yet carriers like Sprint and Verizon have labeled their networks as "4G" when they do not fully comply with the spec. This leaves AT&T(HSPA+) and others to declare their 3.5G networks as 4G as well. The consumers are the ones that will lose.
  • by v1 (525388)

    (reading the fine print..) "but you may not be able to drive at the maximum speed depending on the laws in your country"

    "I cry foul! You promised me I could drive this car at 100mph! None of the roads in my area allow that speed! Liars! I want money!"

    sad. Brain. You have one. Use it. I'm not your Captain Obvious [4closurefraud.org].

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 29, 2012 @12:23PM (#39511345)
      How DARE they say anything bad about my precious Apple! I must make metaphors that dont make any sense or relate in any way to the subject at hand to make them sound stupid!

      See how you sound?

      The fact of the matter is the VALID metaphor would be selling a car claiming it will do 90mpg, only it only works on fuel that doesnt exist yet, which is essentially what Apple did.

    • by VMaN (164134)

      Well, if you advertise the car as a 100mph car, and OTHER cars don't have a problem driving 100mph, but your can't because the special fuel isn't available this side of the atlantic, I'd cry foul too.

    • by hawguy (1600213)

      (reading the fine print..) "but you may not be able to drive at the maximum speed depending on the laws in your country"

      "I cry foul! You promised me I could drive this car at 100mph! None of the roads in my area allow that speed! Liars! I want money!"

      sad. Brain. You have one. Use it. I'm not your Captain Obvious [4closurefraud.org].

      I'm not aware of any country that has a maximum speed limit, you can go as fast as you like on any private race track and anyone can purchase track time at a local track.

      It's not as if the car can drive 100mph on USA pavement but not Australian pavement meaning that it will never be able to go 100mph anywhere but the USA You're even able to drive 100mph on a public road if you want to (at the risk of prosecution, but that's not a limitation of the car).

      Is there any chance that someone in Australia can pu

    • by Baloroth (2370816) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @12:33PM (#39511533)

      If you advertise a device as "4G-LTE" compatible without qualification, and it not compatible with 4G-LTE in that country (where you are advertising it as 4G-LTE compatible), that is misleading advertisment.

      The car analogy would actually be saying "This car can go 100mph!" when it can only go 100mph if you drive it down a hill. Technically correct, but not actually an applicable statement in most situations where you actually drive the car, and therefore misleading advertising.

      And yes, advertising is often misleading (that is a fair amount of the point of advertising), but to advertise a device so that it looks like it has worldwide 4G capability (which they did) when it does not (which it doesn't) is false advertising.

      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by NatasRevol (731260)

        Yeah, if only Apple had advertised it without qualification.

        But they didn't:
        http://www.apple.com/ipad/4g/ [apple.com]
        "The new iPad supports fast cellular networks around the world — including 4G LTE networks in the U.S. and Canada.*"
        "*4G LTE is supported only on AT&T and Verizon networks in the U.S. and on Bell, Rogers, and Telus networks in Canada. Data plans sold separately. See your carrier for details."

        Hence this whole claim is BS.

        Advertising is advertising, but they explicitly said, in descriptive text A

        • by Anonymous Coward

          You're looking at US site.

          At current version of Australian [apple.com] site, for example, "US and Canada" part is only in fine print - though no mentions of 4G except for page url and name, only "fast wireless" (don't remember if it was that way before or did they change the page since yesterday).

          • by Cimexus (1355033)

            At first (i.e. for the first half of release day), the Australian site was loudly proclaiming "4G!!!!" in large font in the headings. That's the problem. They rapidly changed it once they realised they were going to get in trouble, but the site you're seeing now is quite different than how it appeared on launch day.

        • by Baloroth (2370816)

          Try looking at the Australian version of that page: http://www.apple.com/au/ipad/4g/ [apple.com] Sure it does mention that 4G works only in the US, only in fine print, and not where it talks about the 4G features themselves. I also don't know if that was a recent addition or if it said that at launch. The page also states "iPad with Wi-Fi + 4G models connect to GSM/UMTS networks worldwide" and there is no mention there that 4G functionality only works in the US/Canada. You could also argue that "4G LTE" isn't specific

          • On that page, the first paragraph says this:

            "The new iPad supports fast mobile networks around the world, including HSPA, HSPA+, and DC-HSDPA.* So you can download content, stream video and browse the web at amazing speeds."

            The footnote says this:

            "*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."

            • As far as the general public us concerned, HSPA, HSPA+, DC-HSDPA is just meaningless nonsense. And they won't know what "4G LTE" is in comparison to just "4G". All the average person will read from that page is that the iPad supports 4G. It is in the heading. It is in the URL.

              As far as the ACCC is concerned, an advertisement can be 100% accurate and still be deemed to be misleading. You should not have to read footnotes to find that the main, prominent claim is a lie.

          • It looks like they updated the page. It now says this in two other places:
            "This product supports very fast cellular networks. It is not compatible with current Australian 4G LTE networks and WiMAX networks."

            Current spec page:
            http://www.apple.com/au/ipad/specs/ [apple.com]

            Google cache of the page without the message:
            http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?sourceid=navclient-ff&ie=UTF-8&q=cache%3Ahttp%3A%2F%2Fwww.apple.com%2Fau%2Fipad%2Fspecs%2F [googleusercontent.com]

        • by arose (644256)

          Will make you rich!*

          *Will actually bankrupt you.

          Merely adding a star to a misleading statement doesn't make it not misleading.

  • And you will find that Apple doesn't actually advertise the new iPad as having 4G in Europe. Only "super fast internet" which HSPA+ or whatever it is called should do. If you read the small print you then find that if you travel to a country with 4G, and buy a SIM card, then you can have 4G.

    BTW. You can get a refund in Australia if you return the device. So you won't get any money back if you keep it. Basically Apple says "we are accused of misleading you. If you feel misled, then you can return the iPad
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 29, 2012 @12:14PM (#39511187)

      http://www.apple.com/uk/ipad/

      Ultra-fast 4G. Full speed ahead.

      Designed with next-generation wireless technology, the new iPad with Wi-Fi + 4G connects to fast data networks around the world.

      • http://www.apple.com/uk/ipad/

        Ultra-fast 4G. Full speed ahead.

        Designed with next-generation wireless technology, the new iPad with Wi-Fi + 4G connects to fast data networks around the world.*

        * Only in America. Fixed that for them.

        • by Luckyo (1726890)

          That sort of fix sounds like one that "only works in America" too. EU has specific laws that forbid this kind of bait and switch in small print, and Apple has clearly ran afoul of these laws in its marketing.

      • by MightyYar (622222) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @12:23PM (#39511369)

        Yeah, that is misleading - even if it dose say at the bottom:

        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.

        It implies that 4G will work "around the world", yet it only works in the US and Canada... not even the UK market where this is advertised. The Australian page has the exact same copy.

      • by cpu6502 (1960974)

        >>>Ultra-fast 4G. Full speed ahead..... the new iPad with Wi-Fi + 4G connects to fast data networks around the world.

        Except 4G only works in North america. I didn't realize the U.S. and Canada were now considered "the world". Wow. Did the Congress bomb everyone else into oblivion?

        • by cpu6502 (1960974)

          I should have added "Stupid advertisers" to this post. I was criticizing them.

        • I didn't realize the U.S. and Canada were now considered "the world". Wow.

          I take it you're not a baseball fan...

      • by MrDoh! (71235)

        ANNNDD... it's now been reworded. Hope someone had a copy of the original page.

      • by thegarbz (1787294)

        You think that's bad? This Australian specific page [apple.com] on the Apple website makes me think straight away that Optus Virgin and Telstra are the phone companies that I need to talk to in order to get the full benefits of the iPad.

        Telstra's 4G network doesn't work on the frequency used by the iPad, and the other two companies don't even offer 4G, not even HSPA+.

    • Actually, here in Norway, the consumer watchdog has already decided [google.com] that Apple has been misleading in their advertising of the iPad as 4G. Last time I checked, Norway was in Europe.
  • It specifically says which LTE networks are supported. Is the new standard for ads now to be that only the largest print claims count? Not that I'm necessarily opposed to making ads harder to make, but do we really need a complete paragraph of text with all the claims and counterclaims and caveats and possibilities in every ad? Isn't there still some room for expecting people to research what they are getting, or at least read the entire ad?
    • Re:But in the ads (Score:5, Informative)

      by moronoxyd (1000371) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @12:19PM (#39511273)

      It specifically says which LTE networks are supported. Is the new standard for ads now to be that only the largest print claims count?

      If they sell their iPad in $country saying it 'supports LTE' than yes, as a customer I expect to be able to use LTE in THAT COUNTRY. Putting in the fine print 'only if your in the US or Canada' is misleading advertisement.

      That may not be a problem in the US, but in other parts of the world, especially in Europe, ads are expected to be truthful and not misleading. Trying to wiggle out by using the fine print to basically negate the statments you make in big letters may run afoul to consumer protection.

      And I still wonder: Why did Apple use a chipset that only supports the LTE frequencies used in the US and Canada? There are chipsets that support the other frequencies.
      Would it have been to expensive to build two or three different models for different markets? Would it have been to expensive to use a chipset that supports all frequencies (assuming such a beast exists)?
      Or is it just once again the America-centric world view that Apple (and other companies) have shown more than once in the past?

    • by lingon (559576)

      You have a lot to learn about how consumer protection laws work over here. Yes, you can't claim one thing in the largest letters in the ads if the consumer can't reasonably expect it to be true. However, the reporting is a bit overblown as they're only thinking about starting an investigation. Quoting the Swedish Consumer Agency (my own error-prone translation of a MacWorld article at http://macworld.idg.se/2.1038/1.440631/konsumentverket-granskar-apple [macworld.idg.se]):

      "- This is probably something we have to look into,

    • by cpu6502 (1960974)

      >>> Is the new standard for ads now to be that only the largest print claims count?

      That's why ISPs are getting sued for claiming "unlimited" internet, even if the 1-point-size print clarifies that it is only 5 gigabytes.

      BTW Sony got in trouble in the EU for advertising PS3s as supporting "other OSes" like Linux and then turning-off that feature. They had to refund money to customers, even if the purchase had occurred two years earlier. You don't false-advertise in the EU and get away with it.

    • by itsdapead (734413)

      It specifically says which LTE networks are supported. Is the new standard for ads now to be that only the largest print claims count?

      Yes. In much or Europe that's been the standard for a while. These cases aren't tried in court where the standard is "can a lawyer prove that the ad is technically correct" but are investigated by industry regulators such as the ASA in the UK, where:

      The ASA will take into account the impression created by advertisements as well as specific claims. It will adjudicate on the basis of the likely effect on consumers, not the advertiser’s intentions. (Link) [cap.org.uk]

      So they may also take into account what the typi

    • by thegarbz (1787294)

      Is the new standard for ads now to be that only the largest print claims count?

      No. The standard isn't new. This is what you get when you have a consumer watchdog that actually makes sure the little folk don't get shafted. It's also why you won't see an advertisement for "Unlimited* Broadband" in Australia.

      You don't need fineprint. It's not like Apple America wrote the Australian adverts. There are country specific ads, and country specific websites. Don't support 4G here because the radio in the device doesn't use our frequency bands? Don't advertise it as WiFi+4G.

      It really is that si

  • AT&T "4G" is a joke here. After a week of running around looking for WiFi in order to even use my iPad here in Los Angeles (supposedly one of AT&T's "LTE" markets), I finally returned the iPad for a Verizon model. It's a completely different device. 12-15mbps down / 5-10mbps up throughout LA and the valley. The AT&T model of the iPad is *not* a 4G device...
  • That's a bit of an overdramatic description don't you think? Trying to spin legal arguments to sound more interesting? It reminds of Keanu Reeves fighting the Devil in the Devil's Advocate, that was a battle!

    • by danhuby (759002)

      My thoughts also. The ACCC don't need to 'battle' with corporations. They make a ruling, and that's it.

  • In Finland they have same problem. They're adverising 4G features, even if those aren't supported in Finnish frequencies. Finnish operators are also advertising DC-HSPA as 4G even if it isn't. As far as I know only LTE Advanced would be real 4G. This is just like LED-televisions. Well, why they still got that LCD element there? It shouldn't be needed at all when you got real LED-tv.
  • by gelfling (6534) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @12:45PM (#39511713) Homepage Journal

    As a Sprint customer living in Raleigh NC I can attest that for the most part their claims of 3G let alone 4G are a farce. Data network coverage is spotty down to the individual home on the individual street. If you move literally 50 ft your coverage drops out. Speed tests regularly show 1kpbs down and 0.1 kbps up. But since Sprint charges you $10/month for every phone which CAN access 4G whether it actually does or even whether Sprint offers the service where the phone is used, this is how they get around the 'unlimited no caps' issue that the other carriers have. They simply charge everyone for what does not exist and this makes up for the bandwidth hogs.

    • If their were 'truth in advertising' required for the signal strength meter, most of the AT&T network would be stuck at "1200 baud".

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I'm happy that we are looking into this. Thing is, Sweden actually has the oldest LTE network in the world, so if an ad mentions LTE at all, obviously we would assume that we could use it, but the new iPad doesn't work on our network is because it uses different frequencies from the US network.

  • Not even close to 4g (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I have AT&T in the DC Metro area here with "4g" (HSPA+).

    It's pretty rare that I can even break 1mbps, let alone the theoretical max of 14mbps. The very best I've seen is around 5mbps and that was in one very rare instance.

    Seriously until they can get at least near LTE speeds which are close to broadband, it's pretty ridiculous for them to claim they've leapt forward a generation.

  • ...it's "Offer" refunds.

    Sure, you can give Apple back the iPad, and they'll give you your money back.

    It's not like Apple will have trouble selling that iPad, and now you don't have one anymore.

    Winners everyone on this one, eh?

    • by GigG (887839)
      I can't wait to see how few people will request the refund and return the iPad. Because while I don't have or need one I can see that 4LTE is not the only way this one is better than the previous model.
  • Until now the world has bene DOMINATED by business operating under the "well yes but NOT IN YOUR PART OF THE WORLD" methodology.

    And nobody (with a voice) thought that was a bad thing.

    Suddenly companies are discovering that insert weasel words here is insufficient protection from lawsuits and punitive damages.

    It's about time!

    For the life of me I do not understand why "if you cannot deliver said functionality in a given country, then YOU CANNOT MARKET UNDER SAID TECHNOLOGY BANNER (in said country)" is su

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