SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – Apple concealed that iPhones would be “locked in” to AT&T service and block third-party application downloads, consumers claim in a new federal antitrust action.
The four lead plaintiffs say they bought iPhones when they were first released in 2007, but they did not know that Apple had a secret five-year exclusivity agreement with AT&T that would prevent them from switching carriers.
“Prior to plaintiffs’ purchases of their iPhones and voice and data service, Apple had not disclosed – much less obtained plaintiffs’ contractual consent to – the fact (a) that plaintiffs’ iPhones were locked only to work with ATTM SIM cards, or (b) that the unlock codes would not be provided to them on request,” the complaint says.
AT&T provides unlock codes for every phones but the iPhone, the class claims.
One of the plaintiffs says he would like to unlock his SIM card for international travel, and all four say they want the option to switch to another phone and data provider.
Apple has also tried to curb competition by preventing users from downloading third-party applications, such as those used to create ringtones from songs, the plaintiffs say.
“Since many of these [ringtone] programs used songs downloaded from iTunes, Apple initially sought to block the use of those songs as ringtones by updating the iTunes software to install Program Locks that would interfere with such use,” according to the complaint.
“However, those efforts were all quickly defeated by third party programmers, sometimes within hours of the release of the update.”
Claiming that they did not consent to Apple’s exclusivity agreement with AT&T, the class sued for monopolization of the applications aftermarket and attempted monopolization of the iPhone’s voice and data market.
It is represented by Francis Gregorek of Wolf Haldenstein.