UK Mobile firms to be banned from selling ‘locked’ handsets

Mobile phone companies will be banned from selling ‘locked’ handsets, under a range of new rules from Ofcom that will make switching even simpler.

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. For example, they might experience a long delay before getting the code they need to unlock their phone; the code might not work; or they could suffer a loss of service if they did not realise their phone was locked before they tried to switch.

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.

We know that lots of people can be put off from switching because their handset is locked. So we’re banning mobile companies from selling locked phones, which will save people time, money and effort – and help them unlock better deals. – Selina Chadha, Ofcom’s Connectivity Director

The ban on selling locked handsets is part of a package of measures Ofcom are introducing, most of which reflect new European rules. This includes making switching easier and helping to make sure customers are treated fairly.

Under the new measures announced today, you will also be able to get a summary of the main terms of your contract in writing – before you sign up. This will include things like the length of the contract and prices, and broadband providers will have to tell you the minimum internet speeds you can expect from your service.

Jason Davies

UK based technology professional, with an interest in computer security and telecoms.

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