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Is 4G LTE Apple's Kiss of Death?


Apple is planning to refund angry iPad buyers in Australia. Soon the company might be forced to refund Swedish iPad buyers as well.

The refunds stem from Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) promotional campaign, which asserts that users can buy the 4G LTE version of the new iPad and actually use 4G LTE services. But in Australia, that's just not possible – not for the new iPad, at least.

This prompted an investigation by the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission, which wasn't too happy with Apple's marketing strategy. The commission ultimately concluded that the iPhone maker had misled the public.

Today the Australian Broadcasting Corporation is reporting that Apple will e-mail Australian consumers who purchased an iPad and refund those who believe they have been misled.

Hours later it was revealed that the Swedish Consumer Agency may launch an investigation of its own to determine if Apple has been misleading Swedish consumers. According to the Wall Street Journal (via AppleInsider), the agency has received several complaints from frustrated consumers who are unsatisfied with Apple's marketing efforts.

Actually, that's putting it lightly. Consumers aren't merely “unsatisfied” – they are downright angry. And now English consumers are beginning to show their anger.

Why all the fuss? Most consumers aren't aware that if they don't live in the United States or Canada, they can't take advantage of the new iPad's 4G LTE capabilities.

While Apple may not have intended to mislead the entire world, it is certainly to blame for some of the confusion. During the much-hyped iPad event held earlier this month, the company touted 4G LTE support. Apple also bragged about how the iPad would be sold in multiple countries at launch. But never once did the Mac maker say, “By the way, if you don't live in the U.S., don't bother buying the 4G LTE version – it's kind of useless.”

Instead, Apple went ahead and promoted the iPad as if every consumer in every nation would have the same experience.

Did Apple expressly state that that would be the case? No. But by not clearly stating otherwise, and by having a website (in multiple formats and multiple languages) that indicates that 4G LTE is supported worldwide, it's not hard to see why some consumers feel as though they have been misled.

The funny thing about this whole mess is that by being ignorant (or by assuming that consumers would be), Apple has put itself in a terribly uncomfortable position. Whereas the company has been in hot water before – usually for something consumers don't care about, like a patent dispute – this is one battle that Apple simply cannot win. Now, being a “loser” here does not mean that Apple will suffer any great loss. But if it sets itself up as the company that can't be trusted, foreign consumers may slowly lose their interest in the iPad maker.

Here in the U.S., Apple is currently enjoying the most powerful do-no-wrong phase a corporation has ever seen. Because even if American iPad sales were below expectations (note: Apple broke records worldwide, but the company has yet to release sales figures from each nation), the company is still the king of the U.S. technology. Some Europeans may love Samsung product a little bit more, but in America, people can't get enough of the iPhone – and the many devices and software changes it has inspired.

Follow me @LouisBedigian

Posted-In: Apple Australian Competition & Consumer Commission iPad Wall Street JournalNews Legal Tech Best of Benzinga


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