Over the years, most major mobile networks have tried to keep customers tied to their business by selling ‘locked’ smartphones. While your device can be unlocked for another network if you call up and ask, Ofcom wants to make the switching process easier for UK customers and is considering new rules preventing locked phones from being sold in the first place.
While networks like O2, Sky, Three and Virgin sell unlocked devices, others like EE, Vodafone and Tesco Mobile don’t. According to Ofcom’s own research, a third of people decide against switching networks due to the process of getting their device unlocked, which also sometimes comes with a service charge. Beyond that, “nearly half of customers who try to unlock their phone find it difficult”, sometimes due to delays, or being given an unlock code that does not work.
With that in mind, Ofcom is “proposing to ban mobile companies from selling locked phones, allowing people to move to a different network with their existing handset, hassle-free”. This follows earlier rule changes that pave the way for mobile customers to switch providers by sending a free text message.
Ofcom Consumer Group Director, Lindsey Fussell, expanded on this in a press release, saying: “Switching mobile provider can be really frustrating. By freeing mobile users from locked handsets, our plans would save people time, effort and money – and help them unlock a better deal.”
There will be a process involved before this rule comes into place. Ofcom will be collecting feedback from consumers and mobile network providers, then eventually, a date for this change will be set.
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KitGuru Says: Hopefully we get an update on this newly proposed rule change in 2020. So far though, it sounds like a good idea. Locked smartphones are such an outdated concept at this point anyway and needlessly complicates the process of switching providers.