Apple, AT&T in antitrust suit over exclusivity
Apple and AT&T will be forced to defend themselves against a huge class-action lawsuit over the antitrust implications of their exclusive handset arrangement.
A Californian judge on Friday approved the granting of class-action status to the complaint, which is a consolidation of a number of lawsuits dating back as far as 2007, ZDNet said.
Under the terms of the lawsuit, anybody who has purchased an iPhone in the US since the launch of the first model is considered a plaintiff.
The lawsuit argues that because of AT&T's practice of locking in handsets to their network, plaintiffs who signed up for a two-year contract were in-effect forced into a five-year deal.
Five years is the alleged amount of time Apple and AT&T agreed to an exclusive relationship, in what the suit contends was a contravention of multiple US trade laws.
Apple has sold more than 50 million iPhones in the last three years, AP reported.
While Apple has not stated exactly how many of these have been sold in the US, Piper Jaffrey in January estimated that iPhone users made up 11% of the country's 158.4 million mobile subscribers.
And with Apple receiving increasing antitrust attention from federal regulators over some of its other practices, it is possible the suit could balloon into a federal investigation and trial.