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

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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.

Sherlock Holmes courtesy of Shutterstock.

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Lee Dronick

I wonder how many will return their iPhone for a refund.


I wonder how many will return their iPhone for a refund.

Not many, considering this is about the iPad.

Lee Dronick

I rephrase my question, how many will return their iPad?


I have a few users that might try to return their Droid over this.

John Molloy

I rephrase my question, how many will return their iPad?

Very few. While Apple were actually dumb in this case to advertise this device as a 4g wireless device in countries where they don’t actually have this feature - UK not due to get it now for another year and a half - and then it will be using a different frequency from both the US and the chip Apple uses to power it.

However the dual band 3g that it has, has some impressive results, for example the download figures in some test got the fastest speeds in Sydney Australia on the dual band over San Francisco on maybe congested 4g.


Just saying: The ASA doesn’t investigate when companies do something wrong, they investigate when people complain. They investigated for example when people complained that Siri in the UK didn’t have all the advertised features - so the ASA investigated and found that apparently people had looked at US adverts, and Siri actually did everything that the UK adverts claimed.

After actually looking at the UK adverts for the new iPad, which are different from the US adverts, I think it is quite likely that these complaints will not be upheld. In the UK, Apple advertises “ultra-fast wireless” which is true and has nothing to do with 3G or 4G, and they advertise “Connects to the Internet over Wi-Fi and fast mobile data networks” which is also true. It seems that what Apple advertises and what some people imagine that Apple advertises is just not the same.

John Molloy

It seems that what Apple advertises and what some people imagine that Apple advertises is just not the same.

Well Apple did get nuked by the ASA for advertising the “whole internet” on the original iPhone. I just felt that out of all the so-called “gates” that came up with this release, this would have been the easiest to avoid. Also the UK generally is the first to complain if something is doing well when it wasn’t invented there. (Especially when the chief project designer and the original processor IP was invented there).

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