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Court Order Against German T-Mobile iPhone Sales 195

An anonymous reader writes "In a strange move, Vodafone applied for and was granted a restraining order against T-Mobile to prohibit the sale of iPhone in Germany. A regional court in Hamburg has issued a restraining order. According to 'Specifically, Vodafone is questioning the iPhone's exclusive use in T-Mobile's network and the use of the device being limited to certain fees within T-Mobile's subscription offerings.' Vodaphone says they are not trying to halt iPhone sales completely; they seem to want a court to examine the questions of exclusivity and licensing."
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Court Order Against German T-Mobile iPhone Sales

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  • by djh101010 ( 656795 ) * on Monday November 19, 2007 @11:32PM (#21416243) Homepage Journal
    I can't help but think that there would be about the same number of people bitching about this, regardless of if the contracted partner with Apple was AT&T, Cingular, T-mobile, Sprint, EIEIO, ROFL, or any other provider. For any product, it comes with (list) of (limitations), take it or leave it. All I can say, is that my $AT&T contract is $20 less per month than my Verizon contract for my Palm 600, so the iPhone pays for itself. If people want to be pissed off by this, (shrug) OK, go ahead, but, workflow and usability matter for something for me. Saving 20 bucks a month matters too. Between both, the iPhone makes sense for me regardless of who I have to contract with. People who complain about this, I'm guessing, just like to bitch about things without any particular reason for same other than having something to complain about. Eventually you grow out of that whole "indignation based on look dammit" thing and get on with life. Get on with life. Or not. Your choice. But fact remains, the device is well thought out, the workflow works, and only people who choose to not like it will not like it. It is waht it is, and what is is, is pretty damn well thought out. Get over it.
  • by giminy ( 94188 ) on Monday November 19, 2007 @11:36PM (#21416299) Homepage Journal
    So if I get this straight, in Germany if Company A offers me $X dollars for my product, and Company B offers me $X+5, and I decide to do business only with Company B because I don't like Company A's deal, Company A can then sue me for anti-competitive practices? Sounds like I don't want to do business there...

  • good! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dwater ( 72834 ) on Monday November 19, 2007 @11:51PM (#21416413)
    It's about time someone challenged this tie-in with phones and carriers.

    I should be able to buy a cell phone and use it with any carrier I choose, technical limitations notwithstanding.
  • by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Tuesday November 20, 2007 @12:02AM (#21416501)
    But without *some* anti-trust enforcement, the consumers who would lose their freedom. Eventually there would just be one big company. Power leads to profits leads to more power.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 20, 2007 @12:02AM (#21416503)
    Maybe the very fact that EU states would be willing to challenge such exclusivity agreements explains why their legal system in general seems better at protecting consumers rather than raping them, as seems to be the norm in the US. Since when has the US ever been as effective [] as the EU in protecting consumers?
  • Re:good! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by thegrassyknowl ( 762218 ) on Tuesday November 20, 2007 @12:06AM (#21416533)

    I should be able to buy a cell phone and use it with any carrier I choose, technical limitations notwithstanding.

    That was the original point of the GSM standard. You were supposed to be able to buy a single phone and take it anywhere in the world that supported GSM. Sure, you may or may not have to pop in another SIM card if your provider didn't have roaming in the place where you were at. The whole locking the phones thing breaks that compatibility, as do the different band allocations around the place now.

    If you want to unlock your (common) mobile phone Google can help. The Nokias can be unlocked by entering some code on the keypad that's derived from the IEMI number in the phone. There are several sites that will take an IEMI and give you the code. The same thing exists for all other major brands.

    As for iPhone being locked to T-mobile. It sucks because I want one (not that I can get one here) but I don't want to be forced to use a particular carrier (of Apple's choice) just to use what is essentially a standard mobile phone with a few nice extra features.

  • American viewpoint (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Amigori ( 177092 ) <eefranklin718@yaho o . c om> on Tuesday November 20, 2007 @12:14AM (#21416587) Homepage
    Perhaps its just my viewpoint as an American, but this seems like Vodafone is complaining because they are not the exclusive carrier (and can't charge for every little thing) and the iPhone falls under a different style plan, like here in the States. Remember, Vodafone is Verizon Wireless's largest shareholder and if Vodafone is anything like their American counterpart, they'll use every dirty trick in the book, to screw both their customer and their competition. I bet that Apple has enough lawyers on staff/contract to ensure that this type of sales agreement is compliant with Germany law.

    The phone seems to be programmed (according to the article anyways...anyone have specific details?) to only use the T-Mobile network while in Germany. That should mean that while in Germany, it won't roam on Vodafone's, or anyone else's, network, thus allowing Vodafone to bill DT for the roaming agreement/charges, regardless of whether or not the customer has roaming included in their plan. Although I could be completely off, its really just a guess. I have used VZW phones in the past where it will have 0-10% of signal instead of switching to a competing (roaming) CDMA tower in sight. No, I can't hear you now.

    As for "the use of the device being limited to certain fees within T-Mobile's subscription offerings." Perhaps they've setup a plan similar to AT&T/Cingular here where a number of charges that are typically a "per X" fee are instead a "flat rate" fee. They don't expand on it and I don't understand German (just English, French, and Spanish) to read the T-Mobile website for futher contract details; just a rate comparison box that's similar enough to the AT&Ts plans to understand. Vodafone doesn't want to compete against a non-standard, consumer friendly plan. VZW here wants you to pay for everything you can do with your phone. I'm surprised you don't get commercials while dialing from or to VZW handsets...oh...right...crappy pop ringers...
  • by NMerriam ( 15122 ) <> on Tuesday November 20, 2007 @12:18AM (#21416603) Homepage

    Sounds like I don't want to do business there

    Let me get this straight, if I want to sell a product, I have to follow the law? You're right, that's horrible, no wonder Germany is such a third-world country known for hating modern technology.

    Next thing you know, some litigious bastard will suggest that AT&T should have to let us choose which phones to use on our landlines! You knew the deal when you signed up for service, it's only whiners who want to stop competition who suggest that renting your princess phone is too expensive.
  • Re:Sigh (Score:4, Insightful)

    by NMerriam ( 15122 ) <> on Tuesday November 20, 2007 @12:21AM (#21416627) Homepage

    The above would have made sense if they threw the words "consumer" and "choice". But, oh, that would be too much to ask. Who gives a heck about the consumer?

    You're criticizing the word choice of the (ridiculously brief) article, not the lawsuit or the laws the suit is based on.
  • Re:good! (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 20, 2007 @12:40AM (#21416723)
    It's about time someone challenged this tie-in with phones and carriers.

    I should be able to buy a cell phone and use it with any carrier I choose, technical limitations notwithstanding. .........

    I'd like that for printers and cartridges too.
  • by timmarhy ( 659436 ) on Tuesday November 20, 2007 @01:39AM (#21417013)
    yeah right because i couldn't possibly get data, email and ringtones on another provider.

    wake up to your self.

  • Re:good! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by timmarhy ( 659436 ) on Tuesday November 20, 2007 @01:44AM (#21417041)
    "business model" is too much of a broad term to describe it. Tying,bundling or lockin is what it is, which is illegal in germany.

    If Steve Jobs sold plastic turds coated in lead paint i swear you people would still buy it for your kids to chew on, i swear.

  • Re:Sigh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JackMeyhoff ( 1070484 ) on Tuesday November 20, 2007 @01:46AM (#21417051)
    Actually it is their business. Its called being anti competitive which is very illegal in Europe.
  • by slaingod ( 1076625 ) on Tuesday November 20, 2007 @01:57AM (#21417105) Homepage
    The issue is not about the device. The issue is about the restictive service. I would go out and buy an iPhone tomorrow if Verizon carried it, as Verizon is the ONLY carrier in NYC that I get reception from in my apartment. All coverage/service is not created equal, and in my case there is literally only one provider I can use. Don't get me wrong, Verizon is a pos as well as far as their phone selection. I'm using an XV6700 that's 2 years old, and that is still the most recent model they carry in a full sized PDA phone. God forbid the HTC Touch or XV6800 be available. And of course you can't just go out and buy a compatible phone and bring it into the network.
  • by Chuqmystr ( 126045 ) on Tuesday November 20, 2007 @03:02AM (#21417367) Homepage
    I've got a few things I'd like to bitch about which I like to think are credible. Now mind you, I'm quite the Apple Whore and I HATE Verizon Wireless unto whom I'm tethered but will begrudgingly extol some benefits of.

    iPhone is neat but for the TRUE mobile warrior/wackadoo like me it's cute and flashy but fairly useless. I've clocked far too many hours on trains, buses and other inconvenient places for connectivity tethered to some form of cellular data. Tmobile, VZW, Cingular-ATT-HUGE-monopilistic-turd. So far, VZW and ATT have the faster and more useable networks, at least here in the Southwestern parts of the US. VZW slightly wins out in price.

    VZW does allow me to tether a laptop for my needs, pretty much unfettered. The few crappy smartphones they offer allow me to run mostly whatever apps I want, again, mostly unfettered. Let me qualify "unfettered". As long as I don't get stupid - big bit torrents, constant hosting, lots of streaming - that sort of stuff, they leave me alone. On my handsets I can sync to what I want, ssh into stuff, get any kind of email, many useful things a mobile sysadmin needs. It ain't sexy and is kludgy (and the windoze phones always suck) but it can always be made to work reliably (your fiddling milage may very from handset to handset) without fear of a pushed firmware upgrade creaming my work environment. No one with said needs can honestly claim that sort of thing from the iPhone. Laptop tethering isn't even an option. I'd buy one as-is if it were.

    I do like the iPhone (except for that damned virtual KYB) but for my needs, and surprisingly I've found many more like me than I ever expected to, it simply doesn't fit my needs. The constant hackery a la PSP won't cut it when I need to reliably be able to simply shell into the mothership and slap down some alert or what have you. Ssh on a cellphone is both a painful and useful thing and the complete denial of a tether to a more suited computer is just deplorable.

    I understand what Apple is trying to sell but man, they needed to release it with the SDK from the get-go and allow for a tethering option, even if it were at $ATT's gawd-awful prices. They should have done 3G too. IMHO, they should have let loose the iPod touch first and then the phone. But whatever, I'm not switching bloodsucking carriers for at least another two years. I got my crackberry 8830 which is an okay replacement for the Palm 700p, the palm that could have been but never was. *Shrugs* Well At least it's not a Windoze phone...

    --Only SIX puppies were harmed in this posting. Not SEVEN! SIX PUPPIES! Don't you get it man? Why would anyone want to do SEVEN puppies when they can get it done with SIX?!?

  • by Saint Fnordius ( 456567 ) on Tuesday November 20, 2007 @03:30AM (#21417467) Homepage Journal
    I think that is what Vodafone wants, namely that the iPhone be treated like a pre-paid phone, where a nominal fee removes the SIM lock. In other words, they don't care if people buy the phone from T-Mobile or even if they are locked into a T-Mobile contract, as long as they can slip a Vodafone SIM into the phone.

    If Vodafone wins and gets a solution similar to France, then I could see them advertising themselves as the better provider, or sending a mail on their current customers that they can now take their contacts and other info with them. Let the T-Mobile shops sell the phone, they probably think, as long as the customers stay in our net.

    Although the iPhone does not meet my needs, I wish them luck. I understand and accept the subsidising of a phone purchase by the telecoms, but I also feel the customer should have the right to use his device with whatever network he desires. The same goes for my desire to see certain parts like the battery user-replaceable in the future, as a proposed EU directive demands.
  • Re:Sigh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) * on Tuesday November 20, 2007 @03:40AM (#21417505) Journal

    Its called being anti competitive which is very illegal in Europe.
    What a backward place! Here in the U$A, we have our priorities straight and we know that we all work for the corporations. There's none of this sissy "consumer rights" stuff.
  • Not a monopoly? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SmallFurryCreature ( 593017 ) on Tuesday November 20, 2007 @05:03AM (#21417829) Journal

    You might say the same for KPN or O2, never heard of them? They are the former goverment monopolies in the netherlands and great britain respectivly. (KPN uses both its normal name and Hi as a mobilephone brand, O2 was the mobile phone brand of BT till it split off) Now I give you one guess as to the name of the german mobile phone company that was the former goverment monopoly.

    Feeling a bit stupid now? You should. Next time you start claiming you know anything about a company, try to find out where it came from.

    What next, you claim the BBC is a tiny unimportant station because it is somewhere on station 199 in the US of A? McDonalds is just a tiny chain because they got only one shop in russia? (might be more now offcourse)

    Geez, oh and it is not about being a monopoly, it is about unfair trade practices. It is a EU thing. A US citizen wouldn't be able to understand. Basically the Apple/AT&T deal is not legal in the EU or for that matter most of the world. Different cultures I guess. You like being buggered up the ass by giant companies, we prefer the state to do it, at least we can vote them out if they don't use enough lube.

  • Re:Sigh (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jimicus ( 737525 ) on Tuesday November 20, 2007 @05:10AM (#21417873)
    Sue Apple for calling the shots here

    No. Doesn't make any sense.

    If Apple wanted to just sell the phone, they could sell it without a contract through their usual retail channels. (A number of the iPhone's features depend on the network supporting them, so it wouldn't have been such an easy sell, but that's Apple's problem). But instead they approached a number of telcos across the world and asked them to sell the phone with a contract attached to it. Every telco had the option of reading the contract and replying to the effect that what Apple wanted to do in a particular market was illegal, and thus they could not sign the contract.

    But mobile telephone companies tend to be large organisations that consider themselves if not completely above the law, certainly in a position where it's fairly negotiable.
  • by petermgreen ( 876956 ) <plugwash @ p> on Tuesday November 20, 2007 @05:37AM (#21418007) Homepage
    have you ever tried just dropping your sim into an unlocked phone?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 20, 2007 @06:34AM (#21418215)
    It's funny how few seems to have actually dealt with any of these telecos in Europe. Other than buying handsets and services from them that is. Take Vodafone for instance, they are outright bastards (as Roy from The IT Crowd would say) all the way through. Vodafone is simply pissed because they couldn't control Apple like the control every other handset manufacturer there is that actually sells in volumes. Pure and simple. They just don't want to show it too much.
  • by MrMickS ( 568778 ) on Tuesday November 20, 2007 @06:40AM (#21418243) Homepage Journal
    You miss the point. Apple knows that they only have to cater to a particular segment of the market with the initial phone offering. It doesn't have to hit all of the spots for all users, just enough of them. Its had wow reviews everywhere in the mainstream press and does what it does very well. It does enough for most people in most of the target markets. That's enough for a version 1.0 device.

    WRT to releasing an SDK. Apple didn't need the SDK to be available from the off. They can sell all of the phones they make without one. In order to support the long term viability of the iPhone an SDK will help, most people will probably just use what ships with the phone though.

    Leaving off 3G and only having a paltry 8GB of storage gives a nice update path for Apple. They can double the storage, add 3G, and bring in iPhone 2 at the original high end price point. This will help sustain the iPhone buzz in 6-12 months time.

  • by dave420 ( 699308 ) on Tuesday November 20, 2007 @09:11AM (#21419145)
    No, it means they want T-Mobile to operate under the same requirements as everyone else. Believe me - Europe doesn't want the cellfuck that is the US mobile industry. That's why these laws exist.
  • Re:Sigh (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SillyNickName4me ( 760022 ) <> on Tuesday November 20, 2007 @12:13PM (#21421409) Homepage

    While the apple iPhone is indeed the 'hot' new device, and does offer a currently unique set of features, should anybody be pretending that this will sink any cell phone provider that doesn't get the iPhone?

    Not as such no.

    What is does is prevent one of the things that have caused the mobile market in the EU to function as well as it does, the seperation of hardware and services.

    As for the limited rate selection - why not? It's a PDA, data services are probably assumed.

    Because it limits choice for consumers.
    Why shouldn't I be able to buy a phone seperately from my subscription?
    Why shouldn't I be able to get a different subscription and keep using my phone?

    Why should I? because it means more choice for me as a consumer, and it means providers have to stay competitive in their services instead of being able to 'buy' into fashionable items. It makes it easier for new providers to enter the market because they can directly compete on quality of service instead of exclusive fashion items.

    Oh, but why not let the market figure it out?

    The market could quite figure it out if most consumers were well informed. Its often kinda ignored, but informed customers are an essential part of a functioning free market, and if you don't have those, you'll have to compensate for that or you end up with effective monopolies.

    Its one reason why if 2 products can be seperated easily (in this case a phone using the GSM standard, and the GSM network service) then in general, you can sell them as a bundle as long as you also allow people to buy the products seperately. Some parts of the EU have stronger laws in this then others, but the basic idea stays the same. This is the same kind of issue that Microsoft ran into with regards to tying things into Windows that are technically seperate products. Sure, they can do that as long as they also allow you to buy the unbundeled products.

The unfacts, did we have them, are too imprecisely few to warrant our certitude.