updated 02:30 pm EDT, Fri October 26, 2007
Sprint Unlock Suit Fallout
Sprint has settled a class action lawsuit whose result may force it and other phone carriers to relent and allow phone unlocking, according to an update by Ars Technica. The complaint, filed by California residents Linda and William Mackenzie as well as Gerasimo Molfetas and Katherine Zill, argues that Sprint has broken the state's Unfair Competition Law and related laws by refusing to unlock phones for customers who wanted to switch providers. As part of the settlement, Sprint will be required to give customers an unlock code for their phone when they choose to switch carriers. The policy change will be retroactive to 1999 and will require that both new agreements and customer service agents publicize the details, according to the terms.
While the company will not be formally liable for past behavior, the settlement may set an informal precedent for other carriers operating in California and force a similar outcome. AT&T has recently become the subject of two iPhone-related lawsuits that accuse it and Apple of deliberately barring the handset from use with alternate carriers or with non-approved SIM cards. T-Mobile is also the target of a lawsuit over similar restrictions.
Carriers have previously argued that such locks are beneficial to users by allowing the companies to reduce the prices of phones or plans, knowing that customers will pay a minimum amount rather than assuming customers might leave at any given time.