French say Apple and Orange aren't a well-balanced diet

Unlock that phone! French regulators has ruled that Apple and the French telco Orange cannot maintain a long-term exclusive salad...erm, carrier arrangement for the iPhone in France.

This isn't a final ruling, but France's national Competition Council held that a complaint filed on September 18 by rival telco Bouygues Telecom has enough merit that competition for mobile customers was deemed seriously and immediately threatened. The decision (PDF available here, in French) is, therefore, provisional. It would limit exclusivity to a period of three months.

As in America with AT&T, Apple has an exclusive arrangement in France with Orange, the mobile-and-net branch of France Telecom. It's believed that since the deal with Apple was signed in 2007, Orange has sold well over half a million iPhones. Apple resellers in France may only sell the iPhone with an Orange contract, and this decision will affect them too.

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Orange was cheesed. In a Wednesday release, the company said that though it acknowledged the Council's decision, it was taking the matter to the Court of Appeal in Paris. Noting that exclusivity's still the rule in Germany (where Apple partners with T-Mobile Germany), the UK (O2), Spain (Movistar) and the US, the company fumed that the launch was "a partnership in which Orange has heavily invested."

Which is, the retort says, more than Bouygues (not named in the statement) has done in next-gen gear and services. The Orange statement essentially accuses the smaller company is whining: "The plaintiff, instead of offering genuine competition based on innovative offers, systematically turns to independent administrative authorities to maintain its privileged situation and curb commercial and marketing innovations offered by its competitors."

Bouygues' response is more or less freedom of choice for consumers -- that enough innovation for ya, frere?. The company announced that it is "pleased with the temporary injunction...and hopes to market the iPhone as soon as possible."

Apple had released no statement at press time.

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