ASA Receives iPad 4G Complaints

Advertising Standards Agency says it has received complaints that Apple misled customers over 4G claim

The Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) has confirmed to TechWeekEurope it has received a number of complaints about the advertised 4G functionality of the new iPad.

A ‘Wi-Fi + 4G’ model of the latest version of Apple’s tablet has been marketed in the UK, but is incompatible with many 4G networks outside of the US and Canada. This includes Australia, where Apple has offered to refund customers who felt ‘misled’ by its advertising, although it has not accepted responsibility.

No investigation yet

The ASA said no investigation was underway as it had only just started receiving complaints and was assessing to see if there was a case to answer. The agency said this is normal regardless of how many complaints it receives and that there was no presumption Apple had in fact done anything wrong.

“What we would say is that all UK ads should avoid containing anything that is likely to mislead,” said an ASA spokesperson. “The Advertising Code states that ads must not mislead the consumer by omitting material information or by presenting it in an unclear, unintelligible or ambiguous way.”

“Without going through due process we can’t say whether the ad is likely to be problematic,” they added. “If anyone has concerns about the iPad ad then they can lodge a complaint with us and we will establish whether or not there is a problem under the Code.”

There is currently no commercial 4G network in the UK, and even if one did exist, it would not be supported as the spectrum up for sale in the much-delayed 4G auction is incompatible with Apple’s tablet. The same is true of Everything Everywhere’s proposed Long Term Evolution (LTE) network on its existing spectrum.

Knock on effect

Earlier this week, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) announced it was going to take Apple to court over claims that it improperly advertised the tablet as it doesn’t support Australia’s 4G network.

Support for 4G LTE networks was one of the most hyped features of the new iPad, but it is only compatible with 4G networks on the 700MHz and 2.1GHz spectrums used by operators in the US and Canada. These frequencies are used for television broadcasts and 3G services in Europe, while Telstra’s Australian 4G service uses bandwidth on the 1.8GHz spectrum.

Apple offered to refund customers in Australia who felt misled, but reiterated its belief that it did not falsely advertise the iPad, saying that not once did it say the tablet supported Australian 4G.

The Australian decision may also have sparked Sweden’s consumer watchdog into action. Reuters reports that the Swedish Consumer Agency has received four complaints and will decide what course of action to take as early as next week.

How well do you know your tablets? Take our quiz.