iPhone Carrier Exclusivity Ruled Illegal In France

Paving the way for network freedom elsewhere?

Could the French be about to do iPhone owners around Europe one big favour?

In a ruling this week the country’s competitions authority announced it has temporarily barred the exclusive distribution deal between France Telecom and Apple for the iPhone. Describing the agreement, which utilises FT’s Orange network, as “by nature introduc(ing) a new factor of rigidity in a sector that already lacks competition”, the standards’ body declared the handset open to all French telcos.

As reported by DowJones, France Telecom wasn’t available for comment and it is currently unknown whether rival networks now plan to open negotiations with Apple given the ruling is only in force while the case is delved into more deeply.

Now while exciting (or at least mildly so) this isn’t the first time something like this has happened inside the EU with Vodafone particularly objectionable to T-Mobile’s exclusive deal in Germany last year demanding the temporary sale of unlocked iPhones. Ultimately however T-Mobile prevailed in the dispute and the open handsets were quickly taken off sale.

So what does this all mean for the UK? Potentially everything and nothing. On the one hand, the move may incite rival telcos in Blighty to kick up a fuss with O2 but on the other there is no universal set of mobile phone laws across the continent to fall back on. One little known fact however (thanks Riyad) is that networks are apparently obliged to open up a handset once a customer completes their formal contract. With original iPhone owners now 13 months through an 18 month deal it will be interesting to see what occurs come May.

Watch this space…

DowJones via CNNMoney.com

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