The classic “bait and switch” occurs when one company advertises a product at one price, and when the consumer goes to the store to purchase it, the store claims that they are out of the advertised product, but are selling a “similar” product which is either inferior in quality, or more expensive than the advertised product. In either case, you are offered something you did not want, and that was not advertised.
Apple advertised the iPad 3g with a “groundbreaking” data plan option, which allowed owners to choose between a 200 megabyte plan and an unlimited plan, without a contract, which allowed users to switch from month to month depending upon whether they were going to have a data intensive month. Everybody knows that “options” have value, and the option NOT to pay $30 a month for unlimited data use was one of the things that made the iPad attractive. Hence, it was advertised with that option and people paid an extra $130 for their device just to have the option. (The $130 also bought the option of connecting over the 3g network, not just the option to switch between data plans. And, of course, some people would not have bought the device at all if it did not offer unlimited 3g access).
In a new twist on an old fraud, the bait and switch occurred AFTER the purchase, and by a different company. Apple baited its customers with the AT&T plan it supposedly negotiated, consumers bought the product, and then AT&T pulled the switch. To soften the impact of the bait and switch, AT&T has offered current iPad 3g owners the option of keeping the unlimited plan for so long as users auto-renew the unlimited plan. In other words, what was once an option has now become a lifelong commitment if one wants unlimited data.
AT&T and Apple will eventually fix this, whether because of a class action law suit, or because Attorneys General throughout the country bring consumer fraud actions. Hopefully, this gets fixed sooner rather than later.
What really gets me, however, is that AT&T is crying about “data hogs” but is willing to force people to subscribe to the unlimited plan with the auto-renew requirement and thereby encourage data hogging, instead of leaving us with the option of forgoing the all you can eat buffet until such time as we may feel the need to use it. In other words, it seems there is a bit of disingenuousness about AT&T’s behavior. If they were really concerned about the usage, they would allow the grandfathered folks the option of going on and off the all you can eat buffet. This seems to confirm that they were more interested in locking people into the higher payment plan, in other words, removing the option which was so valuable to us.
As for who to blame, my money goes on Apple. Steve Jobs should never have said he struck a ground breaking deal. He should have said that AT&T is “currently offering” unlimited 3g access, but we have no idea if that will last. Of course, if he had some kind of commitment from AT&T then it could be enforced. We’ll have to see whether Apple had such a commitment, or whether, as it seems from its silence, Apple simply oversold its product with misleading and deceptive statements.
This Is One Diver’s Perspective.