Mobile phone networks including EE, Vodafone and Tesco Mobile will be BANNED from selling locked phones in move by Ofcom to help consumers find better deals
- Ofcom says the move would make it easier for customers to switch providers
- O2, Sky, Three and Virgin already sell unlocked handsets to its consumers
- But BT/EE, Tesco Mobile and Vodafone phones can’t be switched unless £10 paid
By Dan Sales For Mailonline
Published: | Updated:
Ofcom will next year ban mobile phone operators from selling locking handsets.
The telecoms watchdog said the move would make it easier for customers to switch providers.
It will come into force in December 2021 and it is hoped to help people get better deals and value for money.
The move will affect BT/EE, Tesco Mobile and Vodafone, whose devices cannot be used on other networks unless a £10 unlock fee is paid.
O2, Sky, Three and Virgin already sell unlocked handsets.
Ofcom connectivity director Selina Chadha, said: ‘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.’
The new move is hoped to offer more choice and better services for mobile phone users
Ofcom said people were left frustrated by the difficulties in unlocking a mobile, which can take a long amount of time.
Sky News reports it comes after the regulator’s earlier efforts to making switching easier, via the ‘text-to-switch’ service.
Ofcom will also make operators send customers full details of their contracts before they buy a mobile.
Richard Neudegg, head of regulation at Uswitch.com, says: ‘Today’s announcement on mobile handset locking will finally rid the industry of this anachronistic practice.
Vodaphone is one of the companies who still sell phones whose devices are locked
‘From December 2021, mobile providers which have continued to sell handsets locked to just one network, will no longer be able to do so, consigning the fiddly ‘unlocking’ process to the history books.
‘Despite some modest improvements to the process, unlocking, when required, is often a pain – with Ofcom’s data showing that nearly half of customers who go through it experience some sort of difficulty.
‘When the new rules come into force, customers will be able to buy the phone and package they want, with whatever network, safe in the knowledge that if they later choose to switch to another network, they can do so easily and base the decision purely on what’s right for them.
‘Ofcom’s new package of rules will also bring greater transparency to contracts and improve switching processes between different networks, although consumers will have to wait until late 2022 for some of these changes to be introduced.
‘Reform of the switching system will be vital, with new full fibre networks being rolled out across the country. And as the industry has so far failed to agree to a new process, all eyes will be on the regulator to see how this will work in practice.
Earlier this month Ofcom said it was probing the ‘market position’ of BBC Sounds after its commercial rivals complained of the ‘adverse impact’ the service was having on business.
BBC Sounds was launched in 2018 as a ‘digital home’ for audio content – featuring live and on-demand radio, music mixes and podcasts.
But its commercial rivals have since complained about Radio 1 Dance, a new 24-hour dance music stream that will launch on BBC Sounds on October 9, because it is not ‘distinctive’ and does not offer ‘true public service value’.
The new stream will bring together the BBC’s existing dance content in one place, making it easy for listeners to catch their favourite shows outside of traditional schedules.
Ofcom said it would ‘take stock of Sounds at an appropriate point in its evolution’ but refused to conduct a public interest test because ‘we consider the impact of the new stream on the market is likely to be small’.
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