Offering the Apple iPhone as an exclusive deal tied to a single network operator, as is the case with O2 in the UK, could prove illegal in Australia.

The country’s strict competition laws prevent exclusive operator set-ups, and could force Apple to release unlocked iPhones when the device goes on sale Down Under, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology told Cellular-News.com.

"Despite there being at least two class actions in the US against Apple alleging violations of antitrust and consumer protection laws, Apple has released the Apple iPhone in Germany, France and the UK with exclusive agreements with mobile carriers," QUT law researcher Dale Clapperton said.

High price tag not allowed

Selling an unlocked iPhone at an unreasonably high price (as is the case in France and Germany, where an unlocked iPhone costs €749 / £570 and €999 / £755 respectively) won’t work either.

If Apple were to do so, it could become liable to Australia’s third-line forcing laws which make forcing consumers to do business with another organisation illegal, according to Cellular-News.com.

"Australia's competition laws may be uniquely suited to preventing this type of anti-competitive technological tying because they prohibit third-line forcing per se," Clapperton said.

He added that over the course of the two-year Apple iPhone contract term, customers "would probably pay more" in secret commissions attached to each device sold than the original purchasing price.