UK Joins Australia in Questioning New iPad’s 4G Marketing

Apple UK 4G Investigation

Apple is again under fire for the marketing and naming of its 4G-capable iPad, this time in the United Kingdom.

Following complaints in Australia last week that Apple’s 4G iPad is misleading to consumers in nations that don’t support compatible 4G wireless networks, Macworld UK’s Karen Haslam reported on Tuesday that the Advertising Standards Authority, a UK consumer regulatory body, is now looking into the same issues in the United Kingdom.

Apple markets the cellular data-enabled version of its latest iPad as “WiFi + 4G” but only offers true 4G LTE capability on supported networks in the United States and Canada. Other nations that currently have, or are about to roll out, 4G networks, such as Australia and the UK, don’t use frequencies that are compatible with the iPad. The iPad will still work in those nations, but only at slower 3G speeds.

Perhaps foreshadowing language that Apple will receive in the UK, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission declared last week: 

The ACCC alleges that Apple’s recent promotion of the new ‘iPad with WiFi + 4G’ is misleading because it represents to Australian consumers that the product ‘iPad with WiFi + 4G’ can, with a SIM card, connect to a 4G mobile data network in Australia, when this is not the case.

Apple WiFi + 4G

In response, Apple has added footnote disclaimers to its websites in affected countries, stating that “4G LTE is supported only on AT&T and Verizon networks in the U.S. and on Bell, Rogers, and Telus networks in Canada. See your carrier for details.”

The company has also declared that Australian iPad purchasers who feel they were misled by the “4G” product designation can return the product for a refund and Apple will contact all Australian iPad purchasers via email to clarify the limitations of the product’s data connectivity.

Despite the slight modification to the iPad’s fine print, Apple may still face discipline in the UK. The Advertising Standards Authority Code states in Section 3.1 that “Advertisements must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.”

Section 3.2 elaborates: “Advertisements must not mislead consumers by omitting material information. They must not mislead by hiding material information or presenting it in an unclear, unintelligible, ambiguous or untimely manner.”

Whether Apple’s fine print distinction satisfies these requirements is at the determination of the ASA and remains to be seen.

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