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T-Mobile Phone Unlocking Lawsuit May Proceed 116

Posted by Zonk
from the fight-for-your-right-to-unlock dept.
Billosaur writes "Wired is reporting that the California Supreme Court has refused to review two lower court decisions involving a class-action lawsuit against T-Mobile over their policies regarding early termination and phone unlocking. The Court rejected the reviews without comment, opening the door to the lawsuit, which aims to block T-Mobile from collecting a $200 early termination fee from users. Also on the table: an order for T-Mobile to disclose the types of phone-locking technology that may be in use on customer's phones. The ramifications if the lawsuit is successful would be to allow phone users in California to unlock their phones, and might lead to further lawsuits nationwide."
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T-Mobile Phone Unlocking Lawsuit May Proceed

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 12, 2007 @02:03PM (#20957455)
    You pay the early termination fee if you terminate early.

    It's that simple, bitches.
  • by p0tat03 (985078) on Friday October 12, 2007 @02:10PM (#20957571)

    Yeah. I disagree with locking on principle (I paid for the phone, even if it's through subsidies, so why can't I do with it as I please and take it to any carrier?), but early termination fees are reasonable. The provider has subsidized the initial cost of your phone in exchange for your continued patronage. If you don't like it you can ALWAYS buy a phone at full price and avoid the contract.

  • by lysacor (237887) on Friday October 12, 2007 @02:12PM (#20957597) Homepage
    I have a T-Mobile MDA, and they had absolutely no problem unlocking the phone for me prior to me making an international trip so I could use a competing network. I don't understand why some of these people are trying to sue for that, T-Mobile is going to have some much evidence to the contrary that their case will likely be found without merit (IANAL).

    As far as the 200 dollar disconnect fee, I don't agree with that with any carrier, and some use it as a bludgeoning stick to keep people continuing their service under the threat of "breach of contract".

    Cellular service should be something someone can walk into, pay their bill, and walk out of without any fear of reprisal as long as they paid their bills in full.

    -The Cake is a Lie!
  • High time (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sufijazz (889247) on Friday October 12, 2007 @02:14PM (#20957643)
    It's high time the American mobile phone market is made more open and interoperable.

    In GSM-dominated countries, swapping phone service has got nothing to do with your mobile phone. You just remove your SIM-card and put in another one. Conversely, when you buy a new phone, you just put your old SIM card in it and you're done.

    The rationale for a termination fee is usually that handsets are subsidized. But a better solution is for the FCC to open up the industry so that there is a separate market for mobile handsets. This will give customers more options to buy handsets that they know will work with any carrier, and competition in the mobile handset market will bring prices down.

    Carriers can still offer subsidies on handsets with contract termination restrictions - but users will then opt for it willingly - ignoring the option of other available handsets.
  • by King_TJ (85913) on Friday October 12, 2007 @02:15PM (#20957647) Journal
    I agree that "a contract is a contract", and it's silly to go to court just because you don't like something you initially, willingly signed up for.

    On the other hand though, the provider subsidy story is a little "flimsy" too, at times. For example, when I was with Verizon, I wanted one of the new Treo 650s when it was a brand new phone. Buying it with a 2 year extension on my contract, through Verizon, turned out to STILL be over $100 more expensive than buying the phone outright from some of the dealers selling them on the Internet.

    The phone providers seem to like quoting MSRP as the "real price" of the phone, and then knock $100-200 off of that if you sign up for 1 or 2 years with them. Reality is, they're probably still making a profit on the phones after locking you into those contracts, because they're paying nowhere NEAR the MSRP on them.
  • by terraformer (617565) <tpb@pervici.com> on Friday October 12, 2007 @02:39PM (#20957995) Journal
    No, the copyright office of the USPTO created regulations to clarify what is allowed based on copyright law and this was one of the exceptions. DMCA has nothing to do with this other than the fact that the DMCA (a bill) modified the sections of the federal code (the law) that dictate the regulations that the USPTO can put into place. Based on their regulations, it is in fact not illegal for an individual to unlock a phone.
  • by SIIHP (1128921) on Friday October 12, 2007 @02:45PM (#20958071) Journal
    "I flat out asked the sales guy..."

    Ah yes, I think I see your problem.
  • by Chosen Reject (842143) on Friday October 12, 2007 @02:51PM (#20958155)
    Do I want to play MSRP for phones? Of course I do. Does that sound silly to you? Probably, so I'll explain. Let's suppose we live in a world where cell phone contracts and phone locking didn't exist. You say that there would then be no incentive for the carriers to subsidize the cost of the phone. This is true, but then, they would have no need to. A cell phone manufacturer would then need to make their phone affordable to consumers. Right now, if I was Samsung/Motorola/etc. I would be jacking the price of my phones up knowing that the consumer won't ever see that price. The consumer will always see $100/50/free or whatever and not care that the real cost of the phone is $500. If the manufacturer had to sell directly to the consumer, then they would know they can't sell at that price. As a service provider I wouldn't care either, because I just add 10 cents to each contract holders monthly bill and cover the costs that way.

    At the risk of starting an offtopic flamewar about medical insurance, the same thing is occuring there. When insurance covers you such that you only pay a $25 copay to see a doctor, you are shielded from the doctor charging you $500 for your 30 minute visit. Granted, you will pay more for your premiums over time, but that's a small monthly fee that you know you can't get rid because you need insurance. Same thing with the phone companies. Sure you get the small price of the phone up front, but now you are stuck with a locked phone and a contract. If that phone company starts to turn sour, you can either put up with it for the remainder of your contract, or bail at a significant price.

    Option 1:
    • Cheap, locked phones
    • That raise the price of your monthly contract to cover the subsidy (you didn't actually think the phone company was being that kind did you?)
    • Limited freedom to move around when the phone company starts dinking with you
    Option 2:
    • Slightly more upfront cost for a phone
    • Complete freedom to do with the phone what you want
    • Complete ability to leave your phone company as you suit
    • Thus more competition and lowered monthly prices and better options as phone companies actually have to compete to get you to stay with them
  • profit (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 12, 2007 @02:58PM (#20958267)
    1.) Sign long term contract
    2.) Get free phone
    3.) Cancel long term contract without paying termination fee
    4.) Sell unlocked phone
    5.) Profit
  • by Chosen Reject (842143) on Friday October 12, 2007 @03:01PM (#20958303)
    Holy shallow-view, Batman! Do you really think the cell phone company is eating the cost of your phone? Do you honestly believe that you don't pay an extra penny or more per month to help pay for your phone? Do you honestly think that if you could walk away from a lousy company to go to another that the first company wouldn't try to improve, either through better service or lower prices? Do you really think that phone manufacturers aren't already raising the prices of their phones knowing that the cell companies are going to subsidize the costs (and will do so through your monthly payments)?

    There is no ifs, ands, or buts about it. Cell phone contracts force you into bad service with a locked phone that you _will_ pay full price for anyway, but an even higher full price than if the "subsidy" didn't exist.
  • by rickb928 (945187) on Friday October 12, 2007 @03:03PM (#20958325) Homepage Journal
    Look carefully. T-Mobile will sell you a phone at 'retail'. And yes, you will have to ask to have that one unlocked, because they don't inventory unlocked phones. And they'll unlock it immediately, after you jump through the flaming hoop of fire, 'cause you don't have a contract with them for the phone.

    Then you can buy a contract with whoever, even T-Mobile.

    I really don't quite get the hoohah over this locking thing. In Europe, you buy unlocked phones, and pay quite a bit more. And it's yours. Here, most carriers wanna lock you into some contract, and they subsidize the phone cost to do that. I know that if I want a new Blackberry, I can buy one unlocked for $299 and up, or extend my contract and get one for $199 or something. The value proposition is obvious to me.

    T-Mobile unlocked my 7105t without trouble after my contract completed. I even get my contract for about as long as I want, which is nice cause to start a new one will cost me more $ for the same services. I may change to another carrier, but right now nothing in GSM looks that much better.

    And I'm disppointed that UMTS is going to be fractured. Never fails, interoperability is always trouble. I'm hopeful that T-Mobile and ATT will resolve this, but it may be as much about data roaming as anything. Imagine the problems if the iPhone 2.0 is UMTS, and people buy them where ATT is not the carrier. Roaming most of the time will open them to surcharges and complaints.

    And just in case you weren't listening, the US ain't Europe. Over there, they value choice and freedom, and are willing to pay for it. Are we willing to pay for it also?

  • by jriding (1076733) on Friday October 12, 2007 @03:09PM (#20958419)
    I disagree with this. Look at the land line phone companies. I can get the local provider and have it for 3 months and decide to change it to my local "cable" provider and not have an early cancellation fee. If you have done this then you notice that as soon as someone comes out with a better cheaper deal you switch. Or your provider comes out with a competitive service.. No extra costs are sent to the individuals because of incurred costs. This is something every provider states but in area's where there is competition the prices drop and the services go up. An example of this is I used to have Road Runner cable service. Everest came into the area and magically our roadrunner service price was dropped by half while they still offered more bundled and better service. I still went with everest because they not only offered internet but cable tv as well as phone service for a lower price. When there was only Roadrunner or if I had to pay 300$ to get out of a contract with roadrunner they have no incentive to increase my service.
  • by WhatAmIDoingHere (742870) * <sexwithanimals@gmail.com> on Friday October 12, 2007 @04:54PM (#20960043) Homepage
    Point #1: If they would not make a compromise when it came to negotiating the contract, you should have not signed one you were unhappy with.

    Point #2: Your legal options to break the contract? If you can break contracts willy nilly what's the point of contracts to begin with?

    Point #3: So don't sign the contract to begin with or wait another month to cancel it.

    People think they have a right to get what they want from companies that don't offer it. That is one of the reasons the United States is so lawsuit happy.

APL is a write-only language. I can write programs in APL, but I can't read any of them. -- Roy Keir

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