UK authorities battle with Apple over '4G' claims

Summary:Apple said it would (and has) removed any reference to '4G' on its UK website after complaints rolled in over lack of 4G connectivity. Except, it hasn't.

The UK's advertising regulator continues to battle with Apple over its claims that the iPad 3 is 4G-capable.

A letter seen by the BBC suggests the UK's Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is willing to "close the file" on its investigation should Apple agree to amend its claims that UK customers can access the 4G network.

Two problems: firstly, Apple appears to be standing its ground, causing further headaches for the regulator, despite the iPad 3's inability to connect to any 4G network outside the U.S. and Canada.

And secondly, the UK doesn't even have a commercial 4G network yet.

It comes a month after the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC) took Apple to court over similar claims, after the maker of shiny rectangles sold the device in the country knowing full well it wouldn't connect to its 4G networks --- while still advertising the tablet as a 4G-capable device.

The ASA warned that it was "aware of the news from Australia" and asked consumers to file a complaint. In just over a month, the regulator has received "dozens of complaints" over lack of 4G connectivity.

The regulator suggested Apple should remove any mentions of "4G" on its UK website, saying this would resolve the dispute. Apple said it would make "no further reference" to 4G, and would amend its advertising. The technology giant even edited a video to remove any references to the next-generation mobile broadband service, which has yet to get off the ground in the UK.

And it did, but only to a degree. It still markets the iPad 3's "Wi-Fi + 4G" model which lies at the heart of the ASA's argument. Herein lies the problem.

Apple doesn't want to market the new iPad as anything other than a 4G tablet.

Apple said it adds footnotes to its pages for clarity. The first footnote on the UK store page says: "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," but makes an effort to bury the news further down the page rather at the stage where the user selects their iPad model for purchase.

In Australia, Apple is trying to change the term '3G' into '4G' to circumvent the complaints. Terms like ‘2G’, ‘3G’ and ‘4G’ are not industry-defined, and speeds can vary.

But because UK consumers 'know' what 3G speeds are and have been used to such speeds for over a decade, Apple will have a hard time convincing the regulators and the British public --- just so it can keep its advertisements intact.

Apple declined to comment.

Related:

Topics: Mobility, Apple, Government, Government : US, Hardware, Wi-Fi

About

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

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