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(UK) Mobile Networks to be banned from selling network locked phones

Summary

Come December 2021, UK Mobile Phone networks will be banned from selling devices locked to their network. UK regulator Ofcom has ruled that current rules, which state that networks have to unlock phones when requested are still too complex, so locked handsets will be banned entirely in the UK. 

 

Quotes

Quote

Some companies – including BT/EE, Tesco Mobile and Vodafone – still sell mobile phones that can’t be used on other networks unless they are unlocked. But this is a potentially complicated process which can also cost around £10. Our research shows that more than a third of people who decided against switching said this put them off.

Almost half of customers who try to unlock their phone have difficulties doing so

 

Quote

So, following consultation, we have confirmed that mobile companies will be banned from selling locked phones. This will allow  people to move to a different network with their existing handset, hassle-free. The new rules will come in from December 2021.

 

My thoughts

Should have been this way from the start, really. Good news for the second hand market as you can buy any device and not have to worry about it being network locked. Think we have it pretty good in terms of mobile networks here in the UK, at least compared to the US. I constant hear horror stories from the US of phone networks being very anti-consumer and anti-competitive. Ofcom at least keeps ours somewhat in check. 

 

Also, on a political note, this comes along with a load of other changes that reflect new European rules. Hopefully this sort of thing isn't reversed when the UK officially leaves the EU.

 

New rules are coming in for making switching broadband easier as well, which is nice. 

 

Sources

https://www.ofcom.org.uk/about-ofcom/latest/features-and-news/mobile-firms-banned-from-selling-locked-handsets

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Finally! took them long enough.. I remember I bought my HTC desire back in 2012 and it was locked to 3. It was horrible...

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Unlocking a phone never really has been much of a problem I found.

 

though its a good move for the consumer. maybe they will get rid of SIM cards all together.

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Boost Mobile is a massive piece of shit about this here in the US. Even if your phone is paid off, they will flat out refuse to unlock it if it's less than a year old. 

 

 

Fuck boost mobile. I would highly encourage anyone currently using them to stop doing so. 

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I wasn't expecting Ofcom to do this but I'm glad they have. I don't understand why other networks still lock phones, 3 have been doing this for years..

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funnily where I live , I donnot see many locked phones. I don't even think the telcom companies here create locked phones ....but then again there are plenty of jio phones.. but it is tailored towards the jio sim so I don't think I can call it locked.

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Locked phones while you're paying for the subsidized phone makes total sense. If it is not subsidized, it doesn't make sense.

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1 hour ago, Sir Asvald said:

Finally! took them long enough.. I remember I bought my HTC desire back in 2012 and it was locked to 3. It was horrible...

Hate three as well. Bad service and the sim did not work for hours. Fully happy on EE. I get free boosts as well!

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For reference with Vodafone UK. At the moment as long as you have paid a minimum of 3 months of your contract you can then request the phone to be unlocked.

Easy peasy and has been this way for years, never seen a problem with it.

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I'm still surprised this is a thing there even. 

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2 hours ago, Acid Panda said:

Unlocking a phone never really has been much of a problem I found.

 

though its a good move for the consumer. maybe they will get rid of SIM cards all together.

It's in the works IIRC, but it has to get the phone makers to implement it, which is a problem. I would gladly have a phone with either 2x e-sims, or 1x e-sim + regular sim.

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2 hours ago, gabrielcarvfer said:

Locked phones while you're paying for the subsidized phone makes total sense. If it is not subsidized, it doesn't make sense.

Well, they don't have to lock it though, you can still have a contract that ties you into paying for it for 18 months for example to get the phone subsidised. Then if you stop paying for it, they can charge your card, take you to court or whatever.

Please quote my post, or put @paddy-stone if you want me to respond to you.

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49 minutes ago, oJIMoBOBo said:

For reference with Vodafone UK. At the moment as long as you have paid a minimum of 3 months of your contract you can then request the phone to be unlocked.

Easy peasy and has been this way for years, never seen a problem with it.

Yeah, my mum tried to do this at the end of August. Her Vodafone contract expired on August 30th and her Sky Mobile account went live on the 31st August. She rang Vodafone on the 20th of August giving them 10 days notice that she was leaving when her contract expired and asked for the PAC code and the phone unlock code.

 

The PAC came instantly by text but she was told it takes up to 10 days (normally only 3) to get the phone code. 2 weeks later she hard heard nothing so she rang them and was asked to resubmit for the code again using their website. She did this as requested, a week passed and still nothing so she rang them again, the guy couldn't even find her account. He said he would get someone to call her back that day, 3 days later she had to ring them again. This time she refused the call back and asked for a supervisor who after being very rude to her when she asked him to talk to me (she's 65 and doesn't really understand) took 30 minutes to track down her lost account, when he found it he informed us that they couldn't give us the code because they don't have it and they were waiting for Samsung to provide it to them. It was another 2 and a bit weeks before she finally got the code from them leaving her with an entire months Sky phone bill to pay which she hadn't even touched because her phone was locked then to top it off the cheeky fuckers emailed her to say she owed them £32 (a full months bill) because her phone was given service for 2 days after her account expired. Needless to say I complained to Vodafone and they waived the bill but if I wasn't available she probably would have just paid it.

 

Edit - Then to top it off she tried to lodge a complaint with the communication ombudsman and was told that Vodafone are not members (apparently membership is voluntary) therefore they cannot do anything about it.

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22 minutes ago, paddy-stone said:

Well, they don't have to lock it though, you can still have a contract that ties you into paying for it for 18 months for example to get the phone subsidised. Then if you stop paying for it, they can charge your card, take you to court or whatever.

Way too much trouble that can easily be prevented by keeping the phone locked to them until you finish paying for it.

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5 hours ago, gabrielcarvfer said:

Locked phones while you're paying for the subsidized phone makes total sense. If it is not subsidized, it doesn't make sense.

Why tho? You're still paying lol. 

 

Most carriers here don't do this afaik 

 

 

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2 minutes ago, Mark Kaine said:

Why tho? You're still paying lol. 


Most carriers here don't do this afaik

Just to make sure they will get paid and won't need to bother with lawyers, courts, etc.

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Surprised at this. It makes sense phones are locked whilst still under contract. Especially if that contract says you do not own the device until the term expires.

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8 hours ago, Acid Panda said:

Unlocking a phone never really has been much of a problem I found.

 

though its a good move for the consumer. maybe they will get rid of SIM cards all together.

Trust me, you absolutely do not want that. The SIM card is what lets you switch carrier at all. An eSIM can only be used once and is then destroyed if you deactivate or lose the phone.

 

There are enough customer service screwups that an eSIM should never have been considered for any consumer phone. Government and high security businesses would are the ones who want this because when their employees turn in equipment it gets destroyed or recycled.

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Good. Hopefully it means an end to carrier bloat and carrier specific firmware.

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About time - When the CRTC finally banned Locked Phones in Canada, they initiated a two-step process:

 

1. Carriers had to unlock any smartphone they sold (even if you had since disconnected service and moved that phone to a different carrier), at no charge to the user.

2. A later date was set where all new smartphones had to be sold unlocked.

 

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5 hours ago, gabrielcarvfer said:

Way too much trouble that can easily be prevented by keeping the phone locked to them until you finish paying for it.

Hasn't been much of an issue in Canada.

 

You're still under contract to pay that phone off - if you ditch providers or sell the phone or something, you're still on the hook for the remaining debt.

 

Sure it's not foolproof, but locked phones were incredibly anti-consumer.

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My previous phone could be unlocked if I'd spent at least $80 on credit. That $80 happened to be the price difference for the unlocked version.

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5 hours ago, Master Disaster said:

Yeah, my mum tried to do this at the end of August. Her Vodafone contract expired on August 30th and her Sky Mobile account went live on the 31st August. She rang Vodafone on the 20th of August giving them 10 days notice that she was leaving when her contract expired and asked for the PAC code and the phone unlock code.

 

The PAC came instantly by text but she was told it takes up to 10 days (normally only 3) to get the phone code. 2 weeks later she hard heard nothing so she rang them and was asked to resubmit for the code again using their website. She did this as requested, a week passed and still nothing so she rang them again, the guy couldn't even find her account. He said he would get someone to call her back that day, 3 days later she had to ring them again. This time she refused the call back and asked for a supervisor who after being very rude to her when she asked him to talk to me (she's 65 and doesn't really understand) took 30 minutes to track down her lost account, when he found it he informed us that they couldn't give us the code because they don't have it and they were waiting for Samsung to provide it to them. It was another 2 and a bit weeks before she finally got the code from them leaving her with an entire months Sky phone bill to pay which she hadn't even touched because her phone was locked then to top it off the cheeky fuckers emailed her to say she owed them £32 (a full months bill) because her phone was given service for 2 days after her account expired. Needless to say I complained to Vodafone and they waived the bill but if I wasn't available she probably would have just paid it.

 

Edit - Then to top it off she tried to lodge a complaint with the communication ombudsman and was told that Vodafone are not members (apparently membership is voluntary) therefore they cannot do anything about it.

That sucks and sounds like a horrendous experience. I’ve been with Vodafone since the iPhone 3G, it’s just done automatically so may be down to the phone making it easy(er) rather than the network.

 

Either way the change is welcome and is just good for every consumer 

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This is very good news for your average Joe and also us Techies.

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