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Is Apple using alleged false advertising to promote the iPhone 4S and new 4G iPad?

Siri

A second law suit alleges Siri ads are misleading

Apple is facing allegations of false advertising on two different fronts as customers of the iPhone 4S and the new iPad complain that the products do not work as promised.

A second class-action lawsuit has been filed alleging that the voice-activated personal assistant Siri, which is available on the iPhone 4S, does not perform as promoted in ads for the product. Apple’s advertising is also being questioned in Australia and Europe as those who have purchased the new iPad promising 4G capability discover that it only works with United States and Canadian carriers.

“Apple is one of the most well-recognized global brands, so they have a lot of attention focused on their products because they have a lot of buyers,” said Jason Koslofsky, an attorney with ArentFox LLP, Washington.

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“Because of this brand recognition, Apple has probably learned that it has to be responsive to customer complaints after it suffered backlash with ‘antenna-gate’ for the iPhone 4, and so has offered refunds to Australian customers who believe they were misled about the availability of 4G for the new iPad,” he said.

“Consumers may be a little more wary of the hype surrounding Apple’s products given these issues, but at the same time, will probably still buy Apple products in abundance.”

Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

Local advertising adjustments
Siri is one of the top selling propositions of the iPhone 4S, which was introduced last fall by Apple and has had record sales.

Siri is positioned as a virtual personal assistant that uses voice recognition technology to help users get things done such as scheduling appointments by simply asking. While Apple has said the service is in Beta, it is nonetheless advertising Siri aggressively in TV ads that depict the service being used by individuals.

At issue in two class-action suits is the advertising for Siri, which depicts individuals easily making appointments and finding restaurants using Siri. The real-life users claim that they have not experienced a similar ease of use for the service.

The Siri class-action suit was recently filed in California and follows a similar suit filed earlier this month in New York.

Apple is also facing complaints in several countries that advertising for the new 4G-compatible iPad is misleading.

While the device promises 4G access, this is true only for access to 4G carriers in the U.S. Customers who have purchased the device in other countries are finding they are unable to access faster 4G networks.

“Apple has already offered refunds to Australian customers and will likely do the same if the issue arises in other countries,” Mr. Koslofsky said.

“As Apple ships the same iPad worldwide, it will not likely change manufacturing, but it may need to tailor local advertising to note that only 3G works outside of the U.S.,” he said. “The Apple Web site already contains such disclaimers.”

Legal ramifications
The company could be facing legal challenges as a result of these complaints, with both the Swedish Consumer Agency and the Advertising Standards Authority in Britain reportedly looking into the issue.  

Apple has already responded to similar allegations in Australia, with the company reportedly offering refunds to iPad buyers who feel there were misled. The company is also reportedly planning to put signs in stores to make it clear the device is not compatible with 4G in that country.

Apple has said that its advertising is not misleading and does not say that the new device is compatible with 4G networks in these countries.

The 4G compatibility issue is one of several with the new iPad that have been raised by customers, including that the device overheats, problems with the battery and the fact that users are quickly burning their monthly data allotments, with the number of issues being raised by customers higher than for previous versions of the iPad.

“Allegations of false advertising require a defense by the company, both legally and in the marketplace,” Mr. Koslofsky said.

“Usually, a company can resolve the issues, although egregious cases could result in successful lawsuits or government investigations,” he said.

Associate Editor Chantal Tode covers advertising, messaging, legal/privacy and database/CRM. Reach her at chantal@mobilemarketer.com.

 
Related content: Manufacturers, Apple, iPad, iPhone 4S, Siri, 4G compatibility, false advertising, ArentFox, Jason Koslofsky, mobile marketing, mobile

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