Complaint to EU on iPhone locking

Posted on by Mike Evans

This is the text of my letter to Vivian Reding, email:

1 July 2009

Mme Viviane Reding
Member of the European Commission
BE-1049 Brussels

Dear Commissioner,

I must congratulate you on the implementation of the new mobile roaming charges which come into effect throughout the Union today. This is a very important step in the right direction and will benefit all consumers. 

In a connected issue, I should like to lodge a complaint against Apple Incorporated because of their monopolistic and consumer-penalising policy on the sale of the popular iPhone. Alone among mobile phone manufacturers, Apple is the one company that refuses to sell phones unlocked at any price. Only in some European countries, such as Greece, are they forced by law to offer phones unlocked.

In other countries, notably the United Kingdom where carrier-locking is the norm, the iPhone cannot be bought unlocked at any price. Even paying full price for the phone on a pay-as-you-go arrangement with O2 does not entitle the consumer to an unlocked phone. 

Instead of locking phones, carriers should be encouraged to offer discounts at various rates for commitment to contracts of various lengths. What does it matter if a consumer signs a two-year contract and then changes carrier? He is still liable to pay the original carrier who gets full benefit for offering the original discount. 

As a resident of both the UK and Greece, I have iPhone contracts with O2 in London and Vodafone in Athens. On the UK contract I get a locked phone which I cannot use in Greece. On the Greek contract I get an unlocked phone which I can then use with my O2 SIM card in the UK. Neither O2 nor Vodafone are losing out on this arrangement and I have the convenience of having just one phone.

Many European citizens (not to mention MEPs) now reside in at least two countries and many thousands more take advantage of local SIM cards to reduce costs while travelling. iPhone users, in general, are denied this benefit

I believe it should be illegal for companies such as Apple to refuse to supply unlocked phones and to deny support to such devices. In no other consumer sector is one company able to flout the conventions of free-trading in this manner and I believe that the company should be ordered by the Union to come into line with other phone manufacturers.

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