Apple sanctioned for misleading advertising ... again!

Apple has again run afoul of false advertising rules across the pond. The latest rap from Britain's Advertising Standards Authority regards its claim that "all of the web" is accessible from the iPhone.

"They made a very general claim that you can see the internet in its entirety, and actually that's not quite true - so we've upheld [a complaint]," the ASA told the BBC, after ordering Apple to not run the ad again. Its rationale was that as the iPhone won't run Flash and Java, two commonplace web technologies, the ad misled consumers.

Apple's argument was that the claim referred only to the "availability" of webpages, rather than whether they could actually be displayed properly. Facepalm: almost anything with an internet connection meets this standard. While it has a point about WAP or other junk being served to most other cellphones, the performance of other devices doesn't bear on whether the iPhone actually does what Apple claims it does.

More convincingly, to me, is Apple's complaint that Flash and Java are third-party technologies, with which compatibility can never be perfectly ensured. Right as it is, it's a point that still comes up short when you consider its claim that the iPhone may access all of the web. From the adjudication:

We noted Apple's argument that the ad was about site availability rather than technical detail, but considered that the claim ... "all parts of the internet are on the iPhone" implied users would be able to access all websites and see them in their entirety. We considered that, because the ad had not explained the limitations, viewers were likely to expect to be able to see all the content on a website normally accessible through a PC rather than just having the ability to reach the website. We concluded that the ad gave a misleading impression of the internet capabilities of the iPhone.

The intriguing part, for me, is wondering if Apple was intentionally bullshitting, or if it really doesn't think that Flash and Java count as part of the web. Has it become too easy to believe the popular caricature that Apple operates on a cult-like mindset, full of doublethink? The truth is that it's too self-aware, and too well-controlled, to entertain such delusions.

Which leaves the question: why does it keep getting in trouble for false advertising in Britain? Just a few years ago, it was similarly sanctioned for claiming the Power Mac was the world's fastest personal computer. It's as if Apple doesn't expect its claims to be taken seriously.

Adjudication on Apple Complaint [ASA]

About Rob Beschizza

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