As Jeff Jarvis rightly points out, AT&T’s announcement today that it will limit data plans on new accounts starting June 7th is nothing short of a “bait-and-switch“. However, AT&T isn’t the one selling the $630+ iPad 3G – that one falls directly on the shoulders of Apple (and to a far lesser extent Best Buy, the only retailer that currently sells the iPad).
A red herring
Anyone that follows SimpleGeo’s co-founder Joe Stump on Twitter knows that he’s been trying most of the day to try to contact AT&T to get them to grandfather in his iPad 3G (his doesn’t ship until June 7th ironically). Joe can’t be alone – many people that are still waiting for their iPad’s (demand is far outstretching supply) must be either thinking of or doing the same today.
Of course, if you already have an iPad 3G in your hands and you’ve signed up for the $30 a month unlimited service, all you need to do is to continue to re-up every month and you’ll keep the service. However, even this is a red herring. One of the supposed advantages of the unlimited plan that AT&T / Apple promoted was that it is prepaid without a contract, so if you need 3G one month but not the next (say, you’ll be traveling) you can stop service for a month and then just start up again the next – but with this announcement today, it’s pretty clear that if you stop re-upping your plan for a month, when you come back, you’ll be on the new limited $25 2GB a month plan.
Simply put: false advertising
All of this to us (and as a disclaimer, we’re not lawyers, so if a lawyer or two wants to chime in below, please do) is a breach of an oral contract and false advertising on top. It’s not like this was announced years ago – this was earlier this year, and people made purchasing decisions based on this verbal promise (its also written down on Apple’s website). So this begs the question: should Apple offer no-cost refunds of iPad 3Gs to anyone that asks for one?
Let them give them back if they want
Obviously, we think the answer should be a resounding YES. Currently, if you purchase an iPad at an Apple Store, you have 14 days to return it and will pay a $50 unboxing fee if you open the box. After 14 days, you own it. With today’s announcement, however, we suggest that Apple offer no-cost returns (including tax & all shipping) for 60 days to anyone that has purchased an iPad 3G. Again, we’re not lawyers, but if they don’t, we imagine that they could face lawsuits (perhaps even class-action ones).
At the very least, Apple should do this to keep the “magic” going for people – maybe if people are offered a no-cost return, they’ll switch over to the cheaper WiFi-only models, instead of selling their iPad 3Gs on eBay and getting an Android tablet (when they come out) instead.