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Apple ordered to end exclusive iPhone deal with France's Orange

Apple must immediately cease its exclusive relationship with France Telecom's Orange and allow other local carriers to offer the iPhone to its subscribers, the French competition counsel ruled Wednesday.

On September 18th, France's third largest mobile operator Bouygues Telecom filed a complaint with the regulator, arguing the deal between Apple and its larger rival violates local freedom of competition and pricing laws.

The ruling handed down this week is reportedly a temporary and precautionary measure while the counsel continues to investigate the merits of Bouygues' claims.

In addition to being ordered to open up the iPhone to other French carriers, Apple and France Telecom are also prohibited from entering into any other exclusive agreements for future iPhone models during the precautionary period.

The French competition counsel said Apple's exclusive arrangement with Orange poses a serious and immediate threat to competition in the wireless sector and causes consumers to incur hefty and unjust fees should they attempt to switch providers. (A copy of the 48 page ruling can be seen here [PDF] in French.)

Representatives for Bouygues Telecom applauded the counsel's decision and said the carrier is looking forward to offering the iPhone to its customers in the near future.

France Telecom plans to appeal the decision.