Apple iPhone ad pulled in UK over 'misleading' Internet claims

The UK's Advertising Standards Authority has ruled that an ad for the iPhone was misleading, and cannot be aired again as it misrepresents the device's Internet capabilities.

Two consumers complained to the ASA -- Great Britain's principal regulating body for advertising -- that Apple's claim of "all the parts of the internet are on the iPhone" was incorrect. It doesn't support either Java or Flash, which provide the backbone for many Web sites and services, they argued.

The ASA responded with a formal inquiry. Apple's response was that the intention of its ad was to show that the Internet on the iPhone is far less encumbered than on other devices, which may only support WAP. It also argued that surfing the Web on the iPhone and on a desktop computer are quite similar.

The company's reasoning for not including either Flash or Java was because both would have needed to be handled by separate plug-ins, and were not open source. Apple said it tried to focus on making mobile Safari as compatible as possible with open standards.

Without Flash or Java, some Web sites on the iPhone may have trouble loading -- if at all -- especially they don't provide alternate version of their content. This was troubling to ASA officials.

"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," the Authority said in a ruling.

As such, Apple gave a misleading representation of the iPhone's capabilities, and "must not be broadcast again in its current form." Apple has declined to comment on the ruling.

In the UK, the ASA ensures that all ads are compliant with the country's rules governing advertising, and handles any complaints. Its function is roughly equivalent to that of the Federal Trade Commission's Bureau of Consumer Protection, which has an advertising division.

The ASA has previously ruled on two other Apple ads recently, in favor of the company in both cases. The first, in June 2006, dealt with claims in the Mac vs. PC ads, while the second last month dealt with ads that showed a phone with the Times Online Web site in greater detail than the complainant thought could be realistically achieved.

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