Wireless-carrier T-Mobile USA lost a California Supreme Court bid Wednesday to kill a lawsuit challenging the company’s early-termination fees and its practice of locking down phones to work only on T-Mobile’s network.
Without comment, the high court’s seven justices declined to review two lower-court decisions that allowed the lawsuit. The case could ultimately revamp the relationship between mobile-phone carriers and their customers.
Basically, if this lawsuit is successful, it paves the way for similar lawsuits across the nation. It could also mean the end of phone locking and early termination fees, two problems that plague the cell phone industry. Currently, almost every phone is locked to only work with the carrier through which you buy the phone. Unlocked phones can be found at other retailers, but come at a pretty steep cost. This lawsuit, if successful, would require T-Mobile to release information regarding the manner in which they lock their phones, giving cell phone hackers (not a bad term) the key to easily unlock the phones to be used on any cellular network. As a Verizon Wireless customer, I know about the early termination fee, and I think it’s highway robbery. I shouldn’t have to be locked in to a 2 year contract just to get a decent deal on a phone. I also know that Verizon is known for not only locking phones to their network (though they are one of the only CDMA networks still in existence in the USA, along with Alltel), but they are also known for crippling features that the phones they sell come with standard, a practice that just about all the cellular providers enjoy. I dream of a world where phones are open and the people who own them (such as me) can do as they please with them and use them on whatever carrier we please (so long as the phone works on that network, as I obviously can’t use my CDMA phone on a GSM network).
I don’t know how many readers I have from California, never mind readers from California who also use T-Mobile, but if you are one of them, or know someone who is, you should be very interested in this lawsuit. This is similar to, but different from, the iPhone lawsuit I mentioned previously.
And as always, I got the scoop from Slashdot.