Apple's LTE woes with the new iPad 4G look set to get even more serious, with the Australian consumer rights commission accusing the company of misleading buyers and arguing it should offer refunds. The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission argues Apple has misled with its "iPad WiFi + 4G" name "because it represents to Australian consumers that the product [can] connect to a 4G mobile data network in Australia, when this is not the case."
Reports from Australia had already suggested that carriers there were distancing themselves from Apple's 4G branding, wary of leading buyers to believe that they would see 4G speeds from the third-generation iOS slate. Although the tablet itself comes with an LTE radio, the 4G bands it supports are only used in North America; that means users elsewhere will never see LTE, even if the service is available from their local carriers.
"The ACCC is seeking urgent interlocutory relief to ensure consumers are made aware of the correct technical capabilities of this device" the commission said in a statement today. "Additionally the ACCC is seeking final orders including injunctions, pecuniary penalties, corrective advertising and refunds to consumers affected."
Exactly how much those reparations might cost Apple remains to be seen: currently all cellularly-equipped versions of the new iPad are branded "4G" and the term features heavily in the company's advertising. Further confusing the situation is disagreement over what, exactly, constitutes 4G service: the new iPad also supports DC-HSDPA for up to 42Mbps downloads on compatible networks, potentially faster than some technologies that have been branded 4G before.
"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 concludes.
The same complaints are likely to be raised in Europe, with the European Commission tipped to wade in and have its own say on the branding issue. Although a single iPad 4G model equipped with all of the necessary radio bands to handle worldwide LTE networks is unlikely - the current version already having the most band support of any device to-date, Apple has claimed, and many of the LTE networks still in the planning stages with roll-out months or years away - it may be the case that Apple needs to rethink its marketing strategy.
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