The wireless patent wars faced more twists last week. Australian antitrust regulators slammed Apple for labelling its new iPad as “4G”, while judges are getting impatient with the Google-Oracle saga.
The iPad's 4G claims under fire
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said it will apply to the federal court in Melbourne for an injunction against the new iPad HD - and for fines, refunds to customers, and corrective advertising, as penalties for misleading customers.
Australia has proved a legal hotbed for Apple in recent months, staging the first major courtroom battles against Samsung's Galaxy Tab, with mixed results.
The ACCC alleges that Apple is misleading Australian consumers because the iPad cannot connect to a 4G network in the country. The cellular version of the tablet is advertised as the “new iPad with WiFi + 4G" but as yet it only works with LTE on the 700MHz and 2.1GHz bands used by AT&T and Verizon.
These are not commonly used in most of the rest of the world, even where LTE is available. In Australia, Telstra supports 4G in some markets, but in 1.8GHz, while most European operators will initially deploy in 800MHz and/or 2.6GHz.
“Consumers who have purchased or are considering purchasing an 'iPad with WiFi + 4G' should ensure that they have a proper understanding of the mobile data networks which this iPad can directly access by a SIM card,” the ACCC said.
The small print in documents offered by the Australian Apple Stores does mention that 4G can only be used overseas. “The iPad with Wi-Fi + 4G model can roam worldwide on fast GSM/UMTS networks, including HSPA, HSPA+, and DC-HSDPA. When you travel internationally, you can use a micro-SIM card from a local carrier. You can also connect to the 4G LTE networks of AT&T in the US and Bell, Rogers, and Telus in Canada," the iPad product page says.
The Australian view is likely to spread to Europe, where Sweden has already seen floods of complaints that the iPad 3 will not run on the country's various LTE networks, mainly in 2.6GHz. The Swedish Consumer Agency is likely to launch an investigation to determine whether Apple‟s advertising is misleading, says The Wall Street Journal. Because Apple does not have a direct 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.