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Ofcom considers ban on sale of locked smartphones

Ofcom considers ban on sale of locked smartphones

It costs around £10 to get a smartphone unlocked Telecoms regulator Ofcom is considering a ban on the sale of smartphones locked to one network. The move would come as part of a package of new measures, not just to make it easier for consumers to switch from one mobile operator to another, but covering

Ofcom considers ban on sale of locked smartphones

It costs around £10 to get a smartphone unlocked

Telecoms regulator Ofcom is considering a ban on the sale of smartphones locked to one network. The move would come as part of a package of new measures, not just to make it easier for consumers to switch from one mobile operator to another, but covering broadband, pay TV and landline accounts, too.

Regardless of the UK’s likely formal departure from the European Union at the end of January following the General Election last week, Ofcom says that it is responding to “changes to the European regulatory framework“.

Nearly half of customers who try to unlock their phone find it difficult

BT-owned EE, Vodafone and mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) Tesco Mobile, which runs on the O2 network in the UK and Three in Ireland, all continue to sell locked mobile phones, notes Ofcom. While unlocking the devices to run on competing networks is possible, it typically costs users around £10, adding to the cost and hassle of switching from one network to another.

“Nearly half of customers who try to unlock their phone find it difficult. For example, they might face a long delay before getting the code they need to unlock it; they might be given a code that does not work; or they could suffer a loss of service if they did not realise their device was locked before they tried to switch,” notes Ofcom.

There is no technical reason for a 12-month implementation period

The proposal follows on from new switching rules introduced in July. This enabled mobile phone users to switch networks simply by sending the word ‘PAC’ to 65075 to acquire a PAC code from their current operator.

Mobile operator Three welcomed the proposed move.

“We have supplied all our handsets unlocked at the point of sale since 2014,” a Three spokeperson said.

They added that Ofcom should implement its ban without delay. They continued: “There is no technical reason for a 12-month implementation period and [we] urge them to bring their timetable forward, so that consumers can benefit from simpler switching in 2020.”

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