A Dutch website that claimed to offer sim-free unlocked iPhone 3Gs has suddenly disappeared without sending out any handsets.

The alleged offender, Robert van Zanten, 39, started iphonehelpdesk.nl just before the new version of the iPhone was released.

The website was founded on the basis of promising customers sim-free handsets in a country where the iPhone is locked to a T-Mobile 24 month contract.

Dead comms

But yesterday the phone lines were shut down and the website went off line, leaving consumers €700,000 (£500,000) out of pocket.

Apparently some customers did get sent an iPhone, but these were first generation models with AT&T sim cards from the US.

One theory is that van Zanten believed he could get the handsets from Italy, but panicked when he found this impossible.

Anyway, it shows Apple's plan to keep the handset locked to contracts wherever possible is still holding strong.