Apple offers 4G iPad refunds over Australian LTE confusion

Apple will offer refunds to new iPad 4G buyers in Australia frustrated by the tablet's lack of LTE support, it's been revealed, along with erecting signs at retailers explaining the 4G limitations, in an attempt to avoid legal action in the country. The 4G-branded iPad came under fire from the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) earlier this week, over concerns that buyers were being confused by Apple's "iPad WiFi + 4G" nomenclature since none of the actual 4G networks in the country were supported. Now, the Sydney Morning Herald reports, Apple has conceded to a workaround, though the case will still be heard in court.

Now, Apple must email every new 4G iPad buyer and detail the issue, offering to issue them with a refund if they are disappointed by the wireless limitations. Meanwhile signs reading "This product supports very fast cellular networks. It is not compatible with current Australian 4G LTE networks or WiMax networks" will be distributed to all resellers by 5pm local time on April 5, for display next to the tablet.

In Australia, the LTE network operated by carrier Telstra uses the 1800MHz band, not the 800MHZ or 2100MHz bands used by the AT&T new iPad model sold internationally under the "4G" branding. Rival 4G carrier Vividwireless uses WiMAX instead.

Still, the company has arguably got off lightly: the ACCC originally demanded that Apple place stickers on every iPad WiFi + 4G box explaining the nature of the 4G support. The Commission also pushed for less wordy signage, though Apple complained that it could lead consumers to believe that the new iPad supported no mobile broadband connections whatsoever, including 3G, and thus prove to be "disparaging of its very good product."

Apple and the ACCC will meet on April 18 for a mediation session, with a trial date of May 2 where the process of deciding whether Apple has broken the law in Australia will take place. Those laws allow for up to AU$1.1m (US$1.5m) in penalties per contravention, and the ACCC is yet to number exactly how many it intends to bring against Apple.

The backlash is unlikely to end in Australia, however. The new iPad 4G also does not support LTE networks in use or in planning across Europe and elsewhere, and it's likely that the European Commission will be watching closely to see how the ACCC's complaints pan out.