Carriers and phone manufacturers get away with playing pretty fast and loose with the term “4G” in the US. Besides the creeping of the term to describe high-speed UMTS, depending on how you look at it you could even argue that the LTE we have now doesn’t technically count as 4G. Australia takes its 4G plenty seriously, and doesn’t take kindly to companies stretching the definition of what they consider 4G devices. When Apple began selling the iPad 3 in the nation, billed as the “Wi-Fi + 4G” model despite not even supporting domestic LTE networks, it quickly caught the wrath of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, alleging that it was misleading customers. As Apple makes amends and settles the situation, it now finds itself stuck with a $2.2M fine (in addition to legal fees) as a result of its use of “4G”.
It doesn’t seem like Apple was ever maliciously trying to deceive Australian customers, but based on the disclaimer it provided when selling the iPad under the label “Wi-Fi + 4G”, which admits in fine print that only US and Canadian 4G LTE networks are compatible, we can see how it might seem the company was trying to gloss-over the issue.
Early on, Apple agreed to refund the money of anyone who felt misled by its actions, and now news of this fine comes as the ACCC’s case against Apple starts wrapping-up in court. While the presiding judge has yet to approve the agreement that will levy this fine upon Apple, the company has already agreed to pay it.
This kind of money isn’t going to matter to Apple, but in order to avoid future legal headaches, we imagine it’s going to be a bit more careful about how it releases products in Australia from now on.