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Mobile networks will be banned from selling locked phones from 2021

Mobile network providers will not be allowed to sell locked handsets in the UK from the end of next year, Ofcom has announced.

The communications regulator revealed the new rule in a move to assist people in moving from network to network with the same phone hassle-free.

The ban will affect companies like BT/EE, Tesco Mobile and Vodafone, all of whom continue to sell smartphones locked to their network in order to discourage people from switching to a cheaper or more appealing contract.

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While phones can be unlocked later in the contract, this can cost users around £10. While this may not sound like a huge price to pay to move to another network, over a third of users told Ofcom that this price put them off making the jump.

On top of this, the unlocking process itself can be a hassle. Ofcom found that almost half of users experienced issues trying to unlock their devices. These included a long delay in receiving the unlock code, a faulty code and even a loss of service if they were unaware of their phone’s locked status when moving to a new contract.

“We know that lots of people can be put off from switching because their handset is locked”, said Ofcom connectivity director Selina Chadha.

“So we’re banning mobile companies from selling locked phones, which will save people time, money and effort – and help them unlock better deals”.

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The ban on locked smartphones comes as part of a larger set of rules being introduced to ensure customers can switch networks easily and fairly. Providers will also need to provide a summary of the main details of a customer’s contract in writing before they sign, including contract length, cost and – for broadband providers – minimum internet speeds.

The locked phone ban is due to come into effect in December 2021.