A federal judge granted class action status to a lawsuit against AT&T (NYSE:T) and Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) over Apple's locking of iPhones to the AT&T network. The suit consolidates several actions filed by iPhone buyers beginning in late 2007, a few months after the first Apple iPhone made its debut.
The original suit, which was filed in October 2007, claims consumers who signed a two-year contract with AT&T when they purchased an iPhone were actually entering into a de facto five-year contract because reportedly AT&T and Apple have a five-year exclusive agreement.
When the exclusive relationship between the two firms will end has long been a key point of debate in the wireless industry. In 2007, shortly before the original iPhone was released, USA Today reported the two companies had entered into a five-year deal ending in 2012. Although Apple and AT&T have never publicly confirmed this, in May Engadget unearthed court documents filed by Apple with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. In those documents, Apple said it's common knowledge that the length of deal is for five years.
An AT&T spokeswoman declined to comment on the lawsuit. Apple representatives did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
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