Apple faces European rebuke over Apple's '4G' iPad claim

Apple faces European rebuke over Apple's '4G' iPad claim

Summary: From Australia to Europe: more complaints are coming in from customers to regulators that the iPad 3's "4G" capability simply doesn't work.


If you thought ZDNet's London Calling was spending a little too much time down under over the past few days, we're swinging back to Europe, as both the UK and Sweden are investigating Apple's alleged "misleading" claims over the 4G-enabled iPad 3.

Australia has already seen a rise in complaints over the incompatible 4G network, despite Telstra running a fully functional 4G network. Australia's advertising regulator said Apple must inform customers --- and Apple's lawyers said it will by email --- and offer refunds if they feel "misled".

Back to Europe, and Sweden has seen complaints rolling in from iPad 3 customers, reports the Wall Street Journal. The Swedish Consumer Agency is on the brink of launching an investigation to determine whether Apple's advertising is misleading.

Because Apple doesn't have a presence in Sweden, a complaint would have to be lodged with its European head office in Ireland, which could have knock-on effects around the rest of mainland Europe.

Onto the United Kingdom, where the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) could impose a marketing ban on the iPad 3's claims that it supports 4G in the UK, reports Pocket-Lint.

An ASA spokesperson said they were "aware of the news from Australia", and said customers could lodge a complaint with the regulator.

Apple has suffered a rebuke from the ASA in recent years, with the regulator banning an iPhone advert in 2008. The television advert gave a misleading impression" of the smartphone's browsing capabilities despite the device not supporting Flash or Java. While close to being defunct in the wake of HTML5, back then it was a big deal.

But swings and roundabouts for the Cupertino-based giant, as the ASA fell in its favour over claims that the iPhone was not the "world's thinnest smartphone".

The UK doesn't even have a 4G network yet, as negotiations continue between the mobile phone networks to see who gets what part of the spectrum on offer. The 700MHz spectrum that the iPad 3 is tuned into listening for 4G waves is reserved for free-to-air digital telly in the UK, adding yet another reason why British iPad 3 users will be denied a super-fast mobile broadband connection.

The problem is "4G", along with "2G" and "3G" are not legally protected terms. In Europe, 4G is roughly defined as Long-Term Evolution, or "LTE", while in the U.S., 4G also includes HSPA+, which Europeans still consider to be 3G speeds.

Two continents separated mostly by a common language; that is, especially when it comes to technology terminology.

Image credit: CNET.


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

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  • Wait, what?

    "Two continents separated mostly by a common language" this made me laugh. I'm sure it'll also upset a lot of true Europeans. I'm British, and it looks like you are too, so I call flame-bait :)
    • Continents...

      To give him the benefit of the doubt, perhaps he was referring to the English speaking portion of North America and Australia. Of course, if you believe that, I have a bridge you might be interested in. (vbg)
    • common saying

      It is a common saying that the US and UK are two countries separated by a common language.
  • Sounds like AT&Ts old iPhone 3G claims...

    ...which of course came from Apple

    Apple's just doing the same thing with the iPad3 in other countries....way to go Apple!
    • So you are blaming Apple

      for differing spectrum frequencies on which 4G runs in Europe, Australia, and the US? Really? Wow... just wow. I'll admit that Apple should have done due diligence and had a radio in the iPad that would run on the requisite frequency for 4G in Europe and Australia for it's versions sold in those areas but still blame Apple for Apple's mistakes not for the frequency issues. From the article:

      [i]The problem is ???4G???, along with ???2G??? and ???3G??? are not legally protected terms. In Europe, 4G is roughly defined as Long-Term Evolution, or ???LTE???, while in the U.S., 4G also includes HSPA+, which Europeans still consider to be 3G speeds.[/i]

      How is the above Apple's fault?
      • Yes, Apple is to blame!

        "How is the above Apple's fault?" ... the same way it would be a car manufacturers fault if they sold a car which required a type of fuel which was not sold in the country they were selling the car. Of course the fools buying the car/device without knowing enough to realize should be somewhat culpable too ... but that would require the government to stop trying to legislate for the lowest common denominator!
      • Apple already knew...

        How could they not know?? here in Oz we have different frequencies for 3G as well (depending on carrier) - so they make different models of the same phones etc to work on different networks.

        The customer buys the phone and knows it will work with the carrier they bought it through - they don't have to check it - the average user wouldn't even know there are different types of 4G - but the people making the devices do... and the carriers do.

        Not only that, but Apple devices (as far as I know?), have always worked on all the 3G frequencies here, so could be used on any network without having to check... so why would the average consumer expect 4G to be any different?? And as I said, most don't even know there are different frequencies - specially when we only have one network here at the moment supporting 4G - so there is only one type of 4G here at the moment.

        If the device doesn't do the advertised speed in the country you're buying it in, then it should be clearly indicated on the *outside* of the box, and on ANY of the marketing material including the tv advertising - People going into a store to buy the advertised 4G iPad, only to find 3G compatible only iPads is what most people would call "bait and switch".

        Having advertising blabbing on about 4G 4G 4G... and then open the box and see a sticker saying "...not compatible with Australian 4G LTE networks..." is just plain deceptive!

        But then why am I not surprised?? The marketing departments are always pushing the limits to see how far they can go, making adverts that "suggest" it can do something no one's ever done before, or something it doesn't actually do, without actually quite saying it directly, so that they can always back out with some excuse if they get any complaints.
      • Responsibility of the Advertiser

        It is Apple's responsibility to ensure that their advertising is legal, decent, honest and truthful and does not mislead the customer.

        If they advertise a product as "4G capable" in a market where the frequency or coding of 4G services is incompatible with that product, then they are potentially misleading customers into paying extra for a feature that will not work.

        Equally they should find an employee with a passport to research the actual frequencies used in different countries and design / advertise accordingly. GSM phones in the US use different frequencies to the rest of the planet, so this is hardly a new problem.
      • In the UK, 4G doesn't exist!

        @nigebj I think apple is being fairly responsible.

        It is 4g compatible, insofar as 4g is available to UK customers right now. That is to say, if a UK customer wants to use 4g, they need to go abroad to use it. It's as simple as that.

        It's no different from highlighting that the iPhone 4s CDMA compatible. It is. It just has no bearing on a UK customer who doesn't travel abroad.

        Apple doesn't make a big deal of 4G in any of it's UK based advertising, highlighting it's "World-readiness" over speed here, and disclaims this fact on all of the pages which mention 4G.
        "*4G LTE is supported only on AT&T and Verizon networks in the US, and on Bell, Rogers and Telus networks in Canada. Data plans sold separately. See your carrier for details."

        The fact of the matter is that the new iPad IS a true, 4G tablet, just not everywhere in the world. To say it wasn't would be lying???the UK model is no different from the US one, and can still be used on 4g networks elsewhere in the world.

        It's a different matter in australia, where they do already have 4G networks, and will be in the UK in a few years when they finally start rolling out 4g services, but for now, i don't see the issue.
      • Whoo Hooo

        I got mine voted down to being collapsed because you Apple Haters don't like honest questions - or don't like me... either way I LOLed!

        @nigebj - did you read my post at all or just the title? Otherwise you'd have seen the [b] I'll admit that Apple should have done due diligence and had a radio in the iPad that would run on the requisite frequency for 4G in Europe and Australia for it's versions sold in those areas but still blame Apple for Apple's mistakes not for the frequency issues.[/b] But I guess in your rush to debunk my post you forgot to read it. Good job!

        @iFX.64 - same quote I highlighted above - Apple should have done their due diligence in this and there is no question of that. As I said elsewhere this illustrates the need for an international standard of what 3G, 4G, LTE, ect is and what frequencies they operate on.
      • You sure make it sound like it's Apple's fault

        "I'll admit that Apple should have done due diligence and had a radio in the iPad that would run on the requisite frequency for 4G in Europe and Australia for it's versions sold in those areas "

        Exactly. They should've and they didn't. Doesn't that make it their fault?
  • So sad, iPad bad ad, Begad!

    (Go ahead, someone create a limerick or haiku....)
    • How about a boomerang, instead?

      Ban the sale of the ipad where 4G or even 3G doesn't work for at least the same duration that Apple had an injunction against Samsung in those countries. You'll see how fast they fix the problem when they're hit where they live.
  • 3G, 4G, LTE it is about reading the sheet!

    I am getting rather over the complaints of users not reading spec sheets, despite what is advertised (as general sweeping statements). In New Zealand you have to be careful when you buy a sim, even for older generation phones, when you join a carrier. It is not stated by default, but sometimes your phone will just not work everywhere on the network, as they may have different carrier frequencies all over the place. So my Android phone on one net, my two different iPhones on different nets and my old SonyEricsson need different sims. You see, I read the specs, got the right stuff and did not go about suing people for my own stupidity. If it says 3G, check what flavour, before assuming, same for wifi etc.
    International standards are missing, so I think that is what need attention.
    • GSM frequencies

      You have to be careful with GSM phones if they are not multi-frequency (like quad-band) capable. This is well known, and well stated. A phone will either state what network(s) it will work with (1 or 2 bands usually), or it will not specify a network and just say tri- or quad-band, meaning it will work on all the networks. Apple needs to be much more specific in its advertising. They are not stupid, but apparently have started thinking the world at large is.
    • ITU definition of LTE device is needed. Quad band required.

      If the ITU would just say that an starting on date X, any device that wants to call itself LTE must have quad-band support, this problem would go away. Governments don't want the hassle of redistributing frequency bandwidth but frankly they're just going to have to. The problem is that since different governments have different difficulties here, no one government can make that decision, since they will all be self-serving.

      And regardless of what AT&T and T-Mobile's marketing dollars bought, HSPA+ is NOT 4G and should never have been designated as such in the U.S. One of the WORST decisions ever made!
  • This issue with Apple

    illustrates the need for an international standard for what is considered 4G, 3G, ect. That part is not Apple's fault as ColdFusion_z above is claiming.

    What IS Apple's fault is the lack of due diligence done in regards to having a radio that will work with the Australian and European 4G spectrum frequencies... This is something Apple should have gotten straight prior to selling 4G capable iPads in non US areas.
    • PR > R&D

      R&D should have found this out before 4G was even considered for the new ipad and then have the ipad set for multiband 4G (or at least firmware upgradable radio).
      They have a much bigger PR unit that jumps in to fix what R&D got wrong. Lets wait for the PR spin on this one!
      • PR > R&D

        Ughhh for being the most valued company in the world they don't even spend top 15 money on R&D. The top company is MICROSOFT at 9 Billion per year and Apple comes in at 2.5 Billion. Are you surprised R&D didn't catch this? I'm not....this is why Apple will eventually sink back to reality when Windows 8 launches.
      • PR > R&D

        Wasn't the whole point in denying it's user base 4G was because Apple claimed 4G wasn't ready? Or perhaps it just wasn't ready in Apple products. I totally love the 4G capabilities of my Samsung Gallaxy SII. If other phone makers don't appear to have this problem, I place the blame squarely on Apple. You'd think with the 400% markup they place on their products they would have better R&D to make sure people are getting their moneys worth. Or is all that profit just going to shareholders...