Ofcom has announced plans to stop companies selling locked handsets, in order to make it easier for Brits to switch mobile networks at their leisure.
The telecommunications regulator says the likes of BT/EE, Vodafone and Tesco Mobile are still selling handsets that require a manual unlock before they can be used on other networks. Ofcom says unlocking these handsets can cost around £10, which means people often decide against switching networks due to the inconvenience.
In a post on the Ofcom website, the regulator says: “Nearly half of customers who try to unlock their device find it difficult. For example, they may experience a long delay before getting the code they need to unlock their device; they might be given a code that does not work; or they could suffer a loss of service if they did not realise their device was locked before they tried to switch.”
Ofcom says it plans to ban network operators from selling locked handsets altogether. The company says this follows major reforms introduced this summer that allow mobile subscribers to switch networks just by sending a free text.
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Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s Consumer Group Director, said: “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.”
Ofcom says it is also planning to do the same for broadband customers, in order to reflect new European rules that make it easier to switch to a wider range of providers.
In the blog post, Ofcom writes: “At present, customers switching between providers such as BT, Sky and TalkTalk on Openreach’s copper network can already follow a simple process, where their new provider manages the switch.”
This has not yet been available to customers moving to a different broadband network – such as CityFibre, Gigaclear, Hyperoptic or Virgin Media. These customers currently “need to contact both their existing and new provider to co-ordinate the switch and make sure there is no gap between the old service ending and the new one starting,” the company adds.
That will change under the new rules.