Australia vs. Apple: iPad 3 faces sales ban

Summary:Australia's competition regulator could impose a sales ban on the iPad 3, after it claimed Apple was "misleading" consumers on its 4G LTE capability.

European, Australian iPad 3 owners: disappointed that your brand new tablet will not connect to your network's 4G LTE service? Join the club, as so is the Australian government.

Australian competition regulators are in the process of asking a federal court to force Apple into ensuring that customers know that their new iPad 3 will not run on the country's next-generation mobile broadband network, and instead be relegated to 3G speeds.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said that Australian law is being violated, and could impose massive fines, or even a sales injunction, forcing the shiny slab from the store shelves.

"The ACCC is seeking urgent interlocutory relief to ensure consumers are made aware of the correct technical capabilities of this device," the regulator said, which is technical talk for: "Apple, stop it."

iFixit, when tearing open the iPad, noticed a sticker stating that: "This product is not compatible with Australian 4G LTE networks". Mark Thomas explained the sticker. He tweeted: "The sticker on the new iPad was a Telstra initiative and is placed by Telstra on all new iPads sold by them."

The 4G LTE-enabled iPad 3 only works across two U.S. networks, AT&T and Verizon. Even though the two 4G services are the same and operate in the same 700MHz band, the two networks require different hardware, forcing Apple to create a special iPad for each network.

Outside of North America, however, 4G LTE just won't work.

For example, in the UK, the 700MHz band is reserved for free-to-air digital television, causing somewhat of a panic amongst British telly watchers. In Australia, the 4G services operate on an 1800Mhz band, outside the realm of the 700MHz or 2100MHz band required.

Only 4G-enabled versions of the iPad 3 would be affected. Wi-Fi only enabled iPad 3's should still be available for sale. But a sales injunction would be reminiscent of Apple forcing the Samsung Galaxy Tab off the market just before Christmas in what could become a rather ironic twist.

The regulator can fine Apple up to A$10 million ($10.5m), or three times the value of the revenue collected from the deemed illegal act. This alone could run into the tens of millions. Worse for Apple, if the company fails to fork over its sales figures for Australia, it could be served a fine of up to 10 percent of its Australian annual turnover.

Very ouch.

An Apple spokesperson was unavailable for comment.

Image source: iFixit.

Related:

Topics: Apple, Hardware, iPad, Mobility, Wi-Fi

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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