Feeds

iPhone owners sue Apple for locking Jesus mobe to AT&T

Operator bypassed in new class action

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

A new attack from disgruntled iPhone users is putting Apple in the dock for locking iPhones to AT&T's network, claiming that such a lock is illegally anti-competitive.

The suit, filed in Northern California and picked up by CNet, argues that Apple's 2007 deal to lock iPhones to AT&T was in breach of the Sherman Act – a US antitrust law regulating anticompetitive conduct – and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which permits the unlocking of phone handsets, so the plaintiffs are seeking financial restitution and an undertaking that Apple will never act in such an underhand way again.

It's not the first time that the legality of handset locks has been challenged in America, but previous suits have always targeted the network operators and have failed, in part because the customers signed contracts with AT&T which denied them the chance to join forces in a class action, making it difficult for an individual to pursue the case. But customers had no such contract with Apple, and are thus able to launch this suit.

Customers who bought the first iPhone, the suit explains, entered into a contract with AT&T but were not told that they would be unable to use the handset with another operator, even after the end of the AT&T contract period or while travelling abroad, and that is in breach of their rights: "Apple has prevented iPhone customers from exercising that legal right by locking the iPhones and refusing to give customers the software codes needed to unlock them," the lawsuit reads.

Back in 2007 Apple had to offer mobile networks exclusive access to the iPhone as it was the only bargaining chip Cupertino had. The tactic proved hugely successful, playing operators off against each other to obtain outrageous deals (for Apple) in exchange for exclusivity, but it also put Apple in the hands of the operator, which is why Cupertino no longer plays the game that way.

AT&T's deal was, reportedly, for five years, but the suit notes that it actually ended in February 2011 when Verizon started selling iDevices.

The filing does note that customers managed to work around the lock as early as August 2007, and given such workarounds had been declared legal in a clarification of the DMCA, it begs the question of why the plaintiffs didn't just use such a method, but that's not the point.

Two individuals, Zack Ward and Thomas Buchar, both bought iPhones around 2009 and found that at the end of their AT&T contracts they couldn't switch networks, which is enough for a class action suit, even one which feels more like a punt in the dark than a serious accusation of wrongdoing. ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
4K video on terrestrial TV? Not if the WRC shares frequencies to mobiles
Have your say with Ofcom now, before Freeview becomes Feeview
iPad? More like iFAD: We reveal why Apple fell into IBM's arms
But never fear fanbois, you're still lapping up iPhones, Macs
Nice computers don’t need to go to the toilet, says Barclays
Bad computers might ask if you are Sarah Connor
You didn't get the MeMO? Asus Pad 7 Android tab is ... not bad
Really, er, stands out among cheapie 7-inchers
Apple winks at parents: C'mon, get your kid a tweaked Macbook Pro
Cheapest models given new processors, more RAM
YES, iPhones ARE getting slower with each new release of iOS
Old hardware doesn't get any faster with new software
VMware builds product executables on 50 Mac Minis
And goes to the Genius Bar for support
Leaked Windows Phone 8.1 Update specs tease details of Nokia's next mobes
New screen sizes, dual SIMs, voice over LTE, and more
Microsoft stands on shore as tablet-laden boat sails away
Brit buyers still not falling for Windows' charms
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.