United Kingdom carriers to be banned from selling locked phones


After proposing the changes a year ago, Ofcom research found that customers looking to unlock their phones often faced long delays in receiving a code, and sometimes the code didn't work when it finally did turn up.

Currently, EE, BT Mobile, Tesco Mobile and Vodafone all sell phones locked to their networks that can't be used on another network provider without requesting for it to be unlocked.

A study by Ofcom found that almost 50% of people who try getting their phone unlocked have experienced difficulties.

Ofcom, the UK's telecommunications regulator, has announced it will ban a mobile network device configuration practice that has caused a great deal of customer friction over the years.

Ofcom connectivity director Selina Chadha, said: 'We know that lots of people can be put off from switching because their handset is locked. Furthermore, the new rules don't even come into force until December 2021.

The legislation will bring the United Kingdom into line with forthcoming European Union regulations under the European Electronic Communications Code, despite the looming specter of Brexit.

"So, following consultation, we have confirmed that mobile companies will be banned from selling locked phones".

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While there might have been some benefit for customers - cheaper PAYG devices for example - locked phones were/are mostly a burden on consumers. Additionally, the study found that networks weren't always clear about whether a handset was unlocked at point-of-sale, leading to nasty surprises for the end-user, further down the line.

According to Ofcom, these providers have said that they lock devices to protect the subsidy they have invested in them.

It also pledges to make sure disabled customers have equivalent access to information about their communications services.

Facilitating switching between broadband providers - the guidance behind this rule is still being laid out, and it will not come into force until December 2022.

Other measures include the right to have a summary of the main terms of a contract in writing before signing up.

On broadband specific changes Ofcom says that it will make switching simpler for those switching from Openreach backed networks to the likes of Virgin Media, CityFibre, Gigaclear or Hyperoptic. December 2021, to be exact.

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