Looks like we may see another development today in Apple’s ongoing iPad/4G controversy in Australia. The country’s Competition and Consumer Commission is meeting with Apple in court again today to try to get Apple to officially change the name of the device when it is sold in Australia.
Although many people know the tablet as “the new iPad” since launching the product in March, Apple has also been marketing the product as the new iPad with ‘Wi-Fi +4G’ in Australia and elsewhere. Apple quickly ran into trouble in Australia when the ACCC said Apple was misleading consumers: in fact, the tablet is not actually compatible with the country’s 4G networks.
Since then, Apple has agreed to refund consumers who bought the device thinking they were getting 4G; and the company has also been putting up notices wherever the iPad is sold warning them that it didn’t work with Australia’s 4G. But the ACCC, it seems, does not think this goes far enough.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Apple and the ACCC met today at a mediation hearing “without a resolution” over whether Apple would change the name of the device. The two are due to meet again later today in a “directions hearing” in Melbourne to decide the next course of action.
The case has two levels of significance for Apple: on one hand, it’s an embarrassing admission of one of its products falling short of what Apple claims it can do. That’s bad news for any company, but, as with “antenna-gate” and “heat-gate” these knocks always seem to attract disproportionate attention, partly because Apple has played everything so well up to now with its wireless devices.
The other issue for Apple is that similar questions are getting raised in other markets, like the UK. If this case in Australia progresses, then it could act as a precedent for how Apple has to market its products (and offer refunds) in other parts of the world.
One country where the consumer watchdog is looking at Apple is the UK, where the advertising standards watchdog, the ASA, is apparently deciding whether to formally probe Apple over how it markets its new iPad in the UK.
Currently, the only commercial LTE network in Australia is run by incumbent carrier Telstra but it works on a different radio frequency from the one in the iPad. The device does work with Australia’s 3G and accelerated 3G services, eg HSPA.
There are reports that Telstra is working on changing the frequency of its 4G LTE in the country by the end of this year, which would throw the 4G iPad back into play: that could be something that Apple is using in its arguments in making any more concessions to the ACCC on this matter.
At the moment, Apple’s language around 4G in Australia is mixed. It may be making the lack of 4G clear in stores, but when you buy the product online, two different messages appear. In search results (top right) you can see that the product is still being called the “iPad Wi-Fi + 4G”, but when you actually click on the product to proceed with the purchase (below right), you then get the message that the device is actually “not compatible with current Australian 4G LTE and WiMAX networks.”
At the very least the case today may see Apple clear up some of that kind of wording on its site.