iPhone A monopoly abuse lawsuit against Apple (AAPL) and AT&T's (T) mobile phone unit was awarded class-action status by a judge in California.

The complaint takes issue with the fact that iPhones are locked into AT&T's network, the Associated Press reported. The lawsuit says Apple made a secret deal giving AT&T exclusive use of the iPhone in the U.S. for five years. This means customers who sign up for a two-year agreement with AT&T when they buy an iPhone are effectively locked into a five-year relationship.

This has negatively affected competition and driven up prices, the lawsuit says. Apple denied that it hurt competition.

Judge James Ware says the parts of the lawsuit related to violations of antitrust law can continue as a class action. The class includes anyone who bought an iPhone with a two-year AT&T agreement since iPhones went on sale in June 2007.

The lawsuit seeks to prevent Apple from locking iPhones and choosing what applications users can install. It also seeks damages to cover legal fees.

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