AT&T has filed a lawsuit against three former employees and a company that sells phone unlocking codes, claiming that they installed malware on AT&T's computer systems in order to illegally unlock hundreds of thousands of mobile phones.
Unlocking a phone allows it to be used with any carrier that has a compatible network. It is legal for consumers to unlock their own phones or to pay someone to unlock phones for them. But carriers are not obligated to unlock them except in certain circumstances, such as when customers have paid off their contracts or device financing plans.
AT&T, whose strict unlocking policies have drawn the ire of consumers, filed its complaint last week in US District Court in Seattle, Washington. AT&T claimed that phone locking software "is vital to AT&T's business because it allows AT&T to subsidize the cost of the phone to consumers while protecting AT&T's investment in the phones through term contracts."