A federal judge has approved an antitrust lawsuit against Apple and AT&T for the iPhone’s exclusive phone service. Judge James Ware of U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California stated in court on July 8th that the case will move forward as a class action lawsuit, involving anyone who has bought an iPhone since its release in June 2007.
The initial complaint filed in 2007 alleges that Apple and AT&T engaged in monopolistic practices by discouraging users from leaving the service network by refusing to unlock their iPhones after the expiration of their two-year service contracts. Additionally, litigants charge that Apple took control over what third-party apps could or could not be installed, though this accusation has been dismissed.
The key issue is the condition of Apple’s partnership with AT&T. Though never publicly reported, court documents have proven that Apple was to have an exclusive five-year contract with AT&T. This would contradict the two-year contract consumers enter upon purchase of their iPhone.
The lawsuit claims these efforts have hurt competition and drove up prices for customers.
Apple and AT&T have not made comments about their partnership. Apple denies the accusations that its practices hurt competition.
Steve Jobs and Apple have been obstinately tight-lipped about the exclusive AT&T coverage and how long it will continue. Now, it looks like their answer will have to be given in court.
[Photo courtesy of 943knews.]