Two iPhone users claim Apple has violated the Sherman Act and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act by locking their handsets to the AT&T network without their permission. They’re now suing the Cupertino company in an effort to get their iPhones unlocked, and for monetary damages. They also want a restraining order that will prevent Apple from locking its smartphone to carriers completely.
If every iPhone was an unlocked iPhone, the world would be a better place. You could stick in any SIM card you wanted at any time, allowing you to use your iPhone on a local network when you go abroad, or freely switch carriers at the end of your agreement. Unfortunately, that’s not the case, and so users find other ways to get the unlocked.
Most just call their carrier and ask nicely, others pay to have them unlocked through a third-party. Zach Ward and Thomas Buchar are suing.
The pair filed a putative class action lawsuit in a U.S. District Court in Northern California on Friday, in which they claim Apple has violated antitrust laws by locking their iPhones to AT&T.
According to the complaint, Apple has violated the Sherman Act’s prohibition on monopolization by not obtaining consumers’ contractual consent when it entered into a five-year exclusivity agreement with AT&T in 2007.
Apple installed locks on its iPhone to prevent the device being used on a competing network, violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which says users should be allowed to modify their phones for use on a wireless network of their choice, according to the plaintiffs.
“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 plaintiffs said.
The lawsuit seeks monetary damages from Apple, in addition to a restraining order that prevents the company from locking the iPhone to certain networks. The plaintiffs also want to see Apple providing SIM unlock codes to iPhone users on request.
CNET reports that previous lawsuits against iPhone locks have been unsuccessful after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2011 that found customers no longer have the right to file class action lawsuits against wireless carriers.
In AT&T vs. Concepcion (PDF), the court ruled that a clause in the carrier’s customer contract limiting consumers to arbitration instead of class action met the basic standards of fairness.
But this particularly lawsuit is a little different. Rather than going after AT&T, it takes aim at Apple. Whether Apple has a similar clause in its customer contract is unclear at this point.