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T-Mobile Germany stops selling unlocked iPhones

A German court has overturned an injunction that had forced T-Mobile to sell unlocked iPhones in that country
Written by David Meyer, Contributor on

A German court has decided to grant T-Mobile exclusive rights to sell the iPhone in Germany, overturning a temporary injunction granted against the operator two weeks ago.

Apple's strategy for the iPhone has been to grant one operator in each country exclusive rights to sell the handset. In return, Apple takes an unspecified cut of the revenues generated by customers' iPhone contracts. In late November, Vodafone complained that T-Mobile, which won the German exclusivity deal to sell the handset, was being anti-competitive by not allowing the handset to be used on other networks, while locking users into 24-month contracts.

Vodafone won a temporary injunction against T-Mobile, forcing it to start selling unlocked iPhones. T-Mobile did so, but at a price of €999 (£719). The price of an iPhone on a 24-month contract at T-Mobile Germany is €399 (£287). Now this injunction has been overturned by the Regional Court of Hamburg and T-Mobile has stopped selling unlocked iPhones.

"We are just happy that our opinion is confirmed that this is legal," said T-Mobile spokesperson Klaus Czerwinski on Tuesday. "We still think it is best for the customer."

Czerwinski refused to divulge how many unlocked iPhones had been sold in the two weeks leading up to Tuesday's judgement, but said there were "many sold". "It was hard to understand how somebody could buy it for that price," he told ZDNet.co.uk. "At the beginning I thought hardly any would be sold. It was a very expensive adventure."

A spokesperson for Vodafone said that the company had not yet received the court's written ruling, but it would be examined closely "to decide any future actions". "From the outset, the intention was ensure clarity on the commercial position in the German marketplace," said the spokesperson. "Vodafone does not believe that the pricing model is in the best interests of the German consumer."

Unlocked iPhones can still be bought in France, however, as competition laws there have forced Orange — the winner of the iPhone exclusivity rights for France — to open up the handset to users of other networks.

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