United Kingdom regulator announces ban on sale of locked mobile phones

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United Kingdom telecoms regulator Ofcom has finally banned the practice of preventing people using their phones as they want by locking them to an operator.

We know that lots of people can be put off from switching because their handset is locked.

According to Ofcom, more than one-third of customers said they had been put off switching to another network with their existing handset due to the previous standard of locked handsets.

Additionally, almost half of all customers who try to unlock their device experience difficulties in doing so, such as a delay in getting the code they need, the code not working, or suffering a loss in service due to not realising their device was locked.

Having an unlocked phone also means it's easier to sell the device after you're done with it, and that consumers won't need to worry about only handing it down or selling it on to someone on the same network. Ofcom said O2 started selling unlocked devices in April 2018, Virgin Mobile in 2015 and Three in 2014.

Woman on smartphone
UK regulator announces ban on sale of locked mobile phones

"By freeing cell phone users from locked phones, our plans will save time, effort and money - and help them open a better deal", she said.

So now Ofcom has now announced that mobile phone companies will be banned from selling "locked" handsets, under a range of new rules that will "make switching even simpler".

Ofcom's new rules follow on from it introducing the 'Text to switch' ruling a year ago, allowing customers to switch mobile networks with a text. Hence, the new order doesn't affect them. This will include, for example, contract length and prices, and broadband providers will have to tell customers the minimum internet speeds they can expect. "We fully support Ofcom's decision today", he said.

The ban will come into effect in December 2021.

It said it would consult on proposals to make it easier to switch from fixed-line broadband providers that use Openreach's copper network to those that use completely separate networks, such as Virgin Media, CityFibre, Gigaclear or Hyperoptic.


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