German carrier T-Mobile today scored a victory against competitor Vodafone: the court declared that the exclusive deal the carrier struck with Apple over the distribution of the iPhone, the coveted darling of mobile fashionistas, in Germany.
The court ruled that it could not find a violation of German competition or anti-trust laws. Vodafone had invoked an injunction forcing the sale of unlocked devices, following which T-Mobile offered the unlocked device without a contract for a whopping EUR 999. This let a competitor, Debitel, into offering a cheaper contract to owners of such unlocked iPhones under the terms of which they would also get EUR 600 back (the difference between the T-Mobile price for locked and unlocked models).
The decision is not final; Vodafone has the right to appeal. Also, the judgment does not do away with the fact that French law prevents the closed business model favoured by Apple where it is also on offer unlocked. Under European law, unlocked French iPhones can be re-sold in every EU country once deployed in the marketplace.
The biggest impact of this of course is that it effectively puts Apple’s approach to force operators to pay it cut of the usage revenues under threat. This might now be averted as cross-border trade will likely remain marginal compared to overall sales.