Apple Sued for Locking iPhones to AT&T

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Apple has been hit with a new iPhone lawsuit, but instead of a competitor claiming patent infringement, this one comes from customers claiming that locking the handset to AT&T's wireless network violates the Digital Millenium Copyright Act.

Apple sued for locking iPhones to AT&T's networkApple sued for locking iPhones to AT&T's network

The lawsuit was filed by Zach Ward and Thomas Buchar in U.S. District Court in Northern California, according to CNET, and alleges that Apple failed to get consent from customers to lock their iPhones to AT&T. The lawsuit has its roots in the original iPhone launch in 2007 when AT&T was Apple's exclusive cell service partner as part of a five-year deal.

"Through these actions, Apple has unlawfully stifled competition, reduced output and consumer choice, and artificially increased prices in the aftermarkets for iPhone voice and data services," the lawsuit stated, and added that by including the software locks binding the iPhone to AT&T Apple violated the Sherman Act provision prohibiting monopoly abuse.

Mr. Ward and Mr. Buchar likely chose to target Apple instead of AT&T since similar lawsuits that focused on the cell service provider failed when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that customers can't file class action lawsuits against carriers because of contract terms.

The plaintiffs are asking the court to force Apple to give iPhone owners unlock codes on request regardless of their current AT&T contract status, to make Apple include a full disclosure that handsets are locked to specific carriers, and to get contractual consent from users for the limitation. Of course, they're also asking for monetary damages.

While iPhones sold for the AT&T network are locked to the carrier, users can legitimately unlock their phone so it can be used on other compatible networks, like T-Mobile. AT&T doesn't charge for the unlock process, although the company does limit the service to users that have already fulfilled their contract.

Apple hasn't commented on the case.

Comments

geoduck

Was it up to Apple to lock it to AT&T or was it stipulated by AT&T?
How was a new phone in the market a “monopoly?
Was this an Apple only thing or were many makes and models of phone locked to their carrier?

brano

I can answer 2 of those questions..
  The new phone in the apple market is a monopoly because it limits all apple users to AT&T for new apple iphones
  And yes this is an apple only thing, No other companies have done this
  My opinion on the first question is that apple did this itself because AT&T can’t force apple to limit other carriers

geoduck

Actually I meant these as rhetorical questions:
1-Yes it was an AT&T thing. Apple would not have gotten their phone on the market with ANY carrier without agreeing to this. Arguing that it limited Apple users to AT&T is silly. NO other carrier would touch the iPhone when it came out.
2- Not a monopoly in any way. As long as there were other phones (many), other smart phones (BlackBerries) and feature phones there were options and Apple held no monopoly. To say that they held a monopoly on the iPhone because it was the only Apple phone is silly. You would have to charge Boeing for having a monopoly for being the only producer of the 747 or GM for having a monopoly on the Corvette. There were other options for people, even Apple users, ergo no monopoly. I believe this has even been upheld in court, though I can’t remember the case at this moment.
3-Every time I’ve bought a phone they’ve been locked to the carrier. That’s part of the deal and it’s harder than h311 and very expensive to get an unlocked phone you can take anywhere.

b9bot

The plaintiffs are asking the court to force Apple to give iPhone owners unlock codes on request regardless of their current AT&T contract status, to make Apple include a full disclosure that handsets are locked to specific carriers, and to get contractual consent from users for the limitation. Of course, they’re also asking for monetary damages.
Okay, but AT&T controls the unlock, so how does Apple unlock the phone?
You can’t sue AT&T to make them unlock the phone so how is Apple responsible?
There not!

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