Tuesday, 21 January 2020

UK regulator Ofcom to ban the sale of ‘locked’ mobile handsets

by Harry Baldock, Total Telecom
Tuesday 17 December 19

The decision will allow users to switch quickly and easily, avoiding potential unlocking fees

Ofcom announced today they are planning to ban mobile firms selling ‘locked’ phones. The decision follows reforms introduced in July that mandated the removal of notice-period charges and allowed customers to leave their network with a single text message.  …

Ofcom announced today they are planning to ban mobile firms selling ‘locked’ phones. The decision follows reforms introduced in July that mandated the removal of notice-period charges and allowed customers to leave their network with a single text message.
 
Several companies, including BT/EE, Vodafone, and Tesco Mobile, currently sell mobile phones that are ‘locked’ to their networks and cannot be switched without accruing an ‘unlocking’ fee. Research by Ofcom has shown nearly half of customers found this ‘unlocking’ process difficult, with over a third of people saying the arduous nature of the process had dissuaded them from switching provider altogether.
 
Speaking about the proposed ban, Matt Powell, editor at Broadband Genie, noted that ‘locked’ handsets were the “last significant barrier preventing people from switching mobile providers” following the reforms earlier this year.
 
"Together, these rules will mean that UK mobile users can freely - and very quickly - swap mobile phone plans to get the best price and service. As such, networks will have to work harder than ever to retain loyal subscribers, not only relying on great deals but also offering outstanding customer service and network coverage," he added. 
 
Allowing for hassle-free switching could save consumers around £140 a year and would force providers to work harder to retain their consumer base.
 
Mobile provider Three welcomed the decision, with a spokesperson commenting: “We welcome Ofcom's preferred proposal to ensure that all operators sell unlocked handsets, ending a practice that three quarters of consumers find unfair.”
 
Ofcom said it would publish more detailed plans regarding the new switching process in 2020.
 
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