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Why won’t Apple offer refunds to confused ‘4G’ iPad owners?

After pressure from the ASA and consumers, Apple has amended its advertising to remove references to ‘4G’ on its iPad. But why won’t it offer refunds to UK consumers, as it has in Australia?

The saga of the iPad and its ‘4G’ support, or lack thereof, rumbles on. In March I wrote about why the new iPad won’t actually work on 4G networks in the UK, despite Apple referring to iPads with mobile chips as ‘Wi-Fi + 4G’.

The Advertising Standards Agency (ASA), which received numerous complaints, investigated and demanded that Apple change the messaging on its website. When Apple dragged its heels, the ASA announced it was reopening its investigation and reiterated its demands. Apple has now relented, removing references to ‘4G’ in favour of ‘Wi-Fi + Cellular’.

But is that enough? I don’t think so. In Australia, Apple was forced to offer refunds to customers who felt they were misled.

But in the UK, Apple is offering no such redress, sticking with the standard 14 days cooling-off period from the date purchase. That’s fine if you bought an iPad last week, but what about people who bought one when it was released and didn’t realise it wouldn’t support 4G?

Here’s what Apple had to say

While Apple has changed the wording on its website, Apple is sticking to the view that the iPad hasn’t changed. Its view is that the iPad does support networks in the UK that are considered as 4G by international standards. Apple told us:

‘The new iPad supports many high speed networks around the world, including LTE in the US and Canada and HSPA+ and DC-HSDPA in many countries. Carriers do not all refer to their high speed networks with the same terminology, therefore we’ve decided to use “Wi-Fi + Cellular” as a simple term which describes all the high speed networks supported by the new iPad. The advanced wireless features of the new iPad have not changed.’

But as Three and Everything Everywhere have already told us – they will never refer to the iPad’s version of ‘4G’ as 4G.

The fact remains: when Apple referred to the iPad as ‘4G’ on its website and on its packaging, this could have given UK customers a misleading impression of what they would be getting.

Apple isn’t at fault for the confusing nature of international standards, but it did know about the problem and chose to go ahead anyway. So now this mistake is plain for all to see, do you think it’s about time Apple put its hands up and did the decent thing?

Should Apple offer refunds to confused ’4G’ iPad owners?

Yes - if you bought the iPad for 4G you should be refunded (83%, 237 Votes)

Wait, the new iPad doesn't support 4G in the UK? (11%, 32 Votes)

No - Apple has done enough by removing '4G' from its site (5%, 15 Votes)

Total Voters: 285

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John Symons says:
16 May 2012

The UK adverts seem to have been just as misleading as the Australian ones. Apple should pay up. I bet they have an annual social, environmental, etc impact report trumpeting how ethical they are. Non payment in the UK will show this to be the usual taurine ordure

The seller, and not the producer, is liable to give a refund in this scenario. Section 14(2D) of the Sale of Goods Act 1979 states “If the buyer deals as consumer or, in Scotland, if a contract of sale is a consumer contract, the relevant circumstances mentioned in subsection (2A) above include any public statements on the specific characteristics of the goods made about them by the seller, the producer or his representative, particularly in advertising or on labelling”. Therefore retailers are liable for Apple’s misleading advertising of 4G functionality. See http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1979/54/section/14

Derek says:
17 May 2012

This ‘mis-description’ of 4G seems like it might be a prima facie breach of the Unfair Trading Regs, which prohibits ‘unfair commercial practices’. So, complain to Trading Standards and demand they take action. Additionally, if you have been mis-sold, then try a ‘small claims’ action; I’d be very surprised if Apple did not settle immediately!

[This comment has been edited for libel reasons. Thanks, mods.]

Thanks Andy. I hadn’t read the previous conversation on this before making my comment above. I’m glad that Which is one step ahead of me!

Derek is right. See Regulation 5(2)&(5)(o) of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 at http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2008/1277/regulation/5/made

This is just another story that highlights how ineffective regulators etc are in this country. And how big companies just aren’t worried about them.

I saw an Apple ad only the other day I thought was supposed to have been pulled but I guess not. The one were the guy asks where’s my brother and it shows him just outside the football ground, yet we all know that service is doesn’t work outside the US. So why are the allowed to advertise it ?

To use stronger language, in my opinion they lied to boost sales. They sold a product claiming it had a function it did not have, therefore in modern newspeak, they mis-sold the item. This should automatically result in them recalling all I pads carrying that advertising, with the promise of a full refund.

‘when Apple referred to the iPad as ’4G’ on its website and on its packaging, this could have given UK customers a misleading impression of what they would be getting’.
Not could have, they evidently did, despite being told before concocting this ad campaign that they were making deliberately false statements concerning the UK market. This was discussed about the new I pad in another which thread.

Apple know that most of its fan base would not send them back, and it’s appeal as a consumer centred, caring company would have got a boost from this ‘honest’ mistake & corrective recall.
Instead they are beginning to look more & more like what they really are, just another corporate shark.

Peter Jones says:
17 May 2012

I went for the 4g version of the new iPad as I wanted to futureproof myself for when 4g came to the UK. At that time I thought the extra investment of £100 over the wifi only model was worth it. I now feel cheated. I have checked the box and it certainly says 4g.

I have contacted the ASA, BBC Watchdog, and Citizens Advice (Cunsumer Advice). Hopefully something can be done.

Can any of these bodies force Apple to offer refunds?


Martinb says:
19 May 2012

Just wanted to make a couple of observations: As far as Europe is concerned Apple is registered in Ireland and will not therefore be within the jurisdiction of any UK Trading Standards authorities. Buying across borders brings with it a risk which consumers need to take into account. In any case “Trading Standards” is run by your local district councils, not many of which would have the legal budget to take on the likes of Apple.
The misleading claim aspect of the 4G capability may be a potential infringement of the Consumer protection from unfair trading regulations but this does not create any civil liability so would not be the basis for a small claim. A claim for misrepresentation would be a valid basis for a claim in the civil courts but this will be against the retailer and consumers will have to show that the retailer made the claim, the consumer relied on the claim and suffered loss as a result.

Let me see if I understood you. What you’re saying is Apple know the rules and are using them to their advantage to the detriment of the consumer.

Typical of large companies operating in the UK.

Peter Jones says:
20 May 2012

Many thanks for the informed comment. Can I just ask a couple of points?

I purchased mine from not directly from a high street store (not direct from Apple). Does this bring things back to UK trading laws?

Seconding Consumer Advice advised:

In addition, where goods or services have been paid for using a form of credit, i.e. a credit card or a credit agreement, you may make an equal liability claim against the credit provider under section 75 of the CONSUMER CREDIT ACT 1974 (providing the purchase amount is over £100 and under £30,000) if there is a breach of contract.

What do you think?

Many thanks


Peter Jones says:
21 May 2012

I have now been offered a full refund from the Apple retailer I purchased my iPAD 4g from in March. Well done to them.

Well done@ Peter Jones
Where one leads no doubt others will follow, I look forward to a raft of similar postings.

Stewart says:
23 October 2012

Well done Peter. Will this work if I purchased directly from apple website? Also, what angle did you use to get refund?

Mike price says:
27 June 2013

How did you get this organised? I have the same problem!!!

brettfromoz says:
30 May 2012

Apple knew exactly what they were doing and their stance is not surprising. They are a commercial organisation and management is motivated to maximise returns to investors. Whilst I think they make great kit I’m not a big fan of the way the conduct their business – but I will continue to consider purchasing more Apple kit as it becomes available.

MucklEck says:
26 October 2012

Sorry to bump an old thread.

I bought the new iPad Wifi & 4G and didn’t really care about the fact that it wasn’t really 4G, however the fact that Apple have announced another iPad only 7 months later, made me take my iPad back to the retailer (John Lewis) who happily refunded the full amount, as they had been told by Trading Standards that they had to.

Andy tvcams says:
1 November 2012

@ muckleEck hi just wanted to know how long you owned the ipad 3 and how did you find out that trading standards had told John Lewis that they had to offer you a full refund?


MucklEck says:
1 November 2012

In reply to Andy

The departmental manager in JL that I went to told me that Trading Standards had informed JL HQ and that it had filtered down.

I had owned the iPad 3 since the day it came out.

Andy says:
2 November 2012

I’m trying to get a refund or a replacement with PC World but they don’t want to know.
I’m Disabled and it took me a hell of a long time to save up and I had to make a few sacrifices in order to get the 64GB Model in march when it first came out.

The salesman assured me it was 4G as I explained that with my circumstances it would be a few years before I could buy another so the 4G side of things were important to me.

I’ve been on to trading standards and they confirmed that they forced Apple to withdraw its 4G advertisements as they were misleading but today when I went into PC World the salesmen just stood there laughing at me.

I fully appreciate that technology moves on but my argument is that I was sold a product which was advertised as having a feature it clearly did not.

BTW thank you for replying very much appreciated.