Apple in court over the new iPad

Apple accused of misleading customers

Apple has become embroiled in a legal battle amid claims that it misled customers about the new iPad.

The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC), the Australian consumer watchdog, has filed documents with a federal court in Melbourne, arguing that Apple's advertising claims 'iPad with Wi-Fi can, with a SIM card, connect to a 4G mobile data network in Australia, which it cannot do'.

Apple has rejected claims that it misled customers - although it has agreed to offer a refund to customers who bought the new iPad thinking it was 4G compatible.

When is 4G not 4G?

At the heart of the dispute is a question over the definition of 4G - the latest high-speed broadband service. The new iPad, commonly referred to as the iPad 3, is able to access 4G on 700MHz and 2100MHz but neither frequency is supported by Telstra, which runs Australia's only 4G network.

Colin Golvan, senior council for the ACCC, said Apple "seems to accept that there is a lack of compatibility", adding that "it has been completely indifferent to the Australian market". The date for a hearing has been set for 2 May 2012, with the ACCC pushing for Apple to face a hefty fine.

Apple will doubtless be concerned that these problems in Australia could be replicated elsewhere. While the new iPad is able to connect to some 4G networks in North America, it is incompatible with those in Europe. The UK, for example, does not currently have any mass-market 4G networks, and those that are planned will not work on Apple's frequencies.

Tom Glass, creative director at theEword, said: "The new iPad has been a big financial success already but Apple can't afford for sales to be derailed by a raft of lawsuits around the world. In my opinion, Apple needs to resolve this dispute quickly and decisively to stop any chance of it spreading to other markets."