Apple agrees to $2.2m iPad 4G fine

Apple has agreed to a AU$2.25m ($2.2m) fine in Australia over allegedly misleading new iPad buyers over the tablet's 4G compatibility, though the judge presiding the case could still increase that amount. Both Apple and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission asked Justice Bromberg to approve the fine, the Sydney Morning Herald reports, but the judge is demanding confidential iPad sales information and details of Apple's finances before he agrees.

The fine is roughly half of the total amount that Apple could face for contravening four counts of Australian Consumer Law, with the ACCC initially claiming that the company's 4G branding of the third-gen iPad would incorrectly lead buyers to assume it would work with the 4G networks in the country. However, while the new iPad 4G does support LTE in North America, it is not compatible with Australia's single LTE network (nor, indeed, the WiMAX rival also in operation).

Apple first argued the branding, then agreed to post signs at point-of-sale clarifying exactly what customers could expect from connectivity. It also offered disappointed buyers the option of a full refund, though no information on how many, exactly, have taken the company up on that has been released.

Even with that placation, the ACCC insisted that Apple was still guilty of deception, and despite the Cupertino company finally renaming the tablet the "iPad WiFi + Cellular", it pushed ahead with its legal challenge.

Apple's legal team initially contested the multimillion fine, arguing that nobody had been left dissatisfied as they could return the tablet with no penalty. "What conceiveable damage might there be?" Apple QC Alan Archibald asked the court. "This is a case of absence of loss ... whatever the level of sales, there cannot be loss because anybody concerned about it could reverse the acquisition."

However, the company agreed to supply the judge with the sales and financial data he requested, after being warned that "the parties face the risk that I might come to a view that I do not have sufficient agreed facts before me to be able to properly assess." The court will reconvene next Wednesday after Justice Bromberg has reviewed the new information.