Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) sued for selling `locked’ phones

In the United States Apple Inc.(NASDAQ:AAPL) usually enters into contract with network carriers to sell its iPhones. It had an exclusive agreement with AT&T for the iPhones, that started way back in 2007 but has now ended, but the lawsuits over it don’t stop.

On Friday, Zack Ward of Los Angeles and Thomas Buchar of Chicago, filed a class action suit against the company saying that Apple violate anti-trust laws by entering into an exclusive arrangement with one service provider and not asking consumers whether such an arrangement was acceptable.

An exclusive arrangement with one service provider means that consumers necessarily have to switch over to AT&T Inc.(NYSE:T) as their network provider.

The lawsuit includes devices purchased purchased between Oct. 19, 2008, and Feb. 3, 2011. Ward bought his iPhone in October 2009, and Buchar bought one around June 2009.

The lawsuit has also sought for U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California to bar Apple from selling locked devices that can be operated only on one service provider’s network.

A lot has changed since the arrangement between the two companies has ended but according to legal experts Apple may still be liable to pay for damages for its past practices.

Apple’s first three iPhone models — the iPhone 2G, 3G and 4 — could only operate on AT&T’s network and required a special code in order to be “unlocked,” or capable of operating with SIM card from a different operator, a report by Computer World said.

It was only in June 2011 that Apple started selling unlocked phones that could work on any network, while in February 2011 it had launched phones that were also compatible with Verizon.

AT&T had earlier prevented release of customers from its contract by refusing to unlock the phone even after its agreement with Apple had ended.