Apple offers refunds in Australia over 4G connectivity

Apple’s been forced to offer a refund to Australian buyers of the new iPad after confusion about the device’s 4G connectivity.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) took Apple to federal court this morning, claiming that the company’s advertisements have been misleading.

“The ACCC alleges that Apple’s recent promotion of the new ‘iPad with WiFi + 4G’ is misleading because it represents to Australian consumers that the product “iPad with WiFi + 4G” can, with a SIM card, connect to a 4G mobile data network in Australia, when this is not the case,” it says.

The new iPad can be used on the 700MHz and 2100MHz LTE bands. All well and good – except that Australia’s only 4G network, run by Telstra, operates in the 1800MHz band.

In court, Apple’s now offered to contact all owners of the new device and offer them a refund if they believe they’ve been misled. It also says it’ll alter point of sale material to explain that the iPad can’t actually connect to 4G networks in Australia.

However, the new point of sale material won’t arrive in stores until April 5; and, at the time of writing, the company’s Australian website is still making the claims about 4G that have concerned the ACCC. “The new iPad with Wi-Fi + 4G connects to fast data networks around the world,” it says.

There will be a mediation meeting on the case on April 18, with a trial set for May 2.

Meanwhile, though, Apple may face similar problems elsewhere, as the definition of 4G is less than clear.

In the US and Canada, the new iPad is compatible with 4G LTE networks using the HSPA, HSPA+ and DC-HSDPA specifications. But many European countries are planning LTE networks which also fall outside the bands supported by the new iPad, meaning there’ll be similar connectivity issues there too.