When a mobile network sells you a phone with a costly contract, it makes sure that switching providers won't be easy. Handsets have traditionally been locked to the carrier who sold it, and you have to jump through hoops to get it unlocked. From December next year, this practice will no longer be permitted in the UK as regulator Ofcom is banning the sale of locked phones by network operators.
The new rules will affect BT and its EE subsidiary, Vodafone, and Tesco Mobile, and there doesn't appear to be any pushback from these companies. Other UK networks such as O2, Three, and Virgin already only sell unlocked handsets, so it'll be business as usual for them. Ofcom says that consumers will find it easier to switch networks for a better deal once the new measures are in place, and it'll also save them money since phone unlocking usually costs around £10.
Despite Brexit, the UK has agreed to comply with EU regulations that were introduced in 2018. As well as the new rules around unlocked phones, the UK will also be bringing in other new measures. Accessible communications formats such as braille must always be available when requested from the same date, in December of 2021. Then later in June 2022, networks will have to show customers a clear summary of a contract before signing so that key parts aren't hidden in the small print. Furthermore, consumers will be able to get out of contracts if changes are made that weren't originally agreed upon, like price hikes. Lastly, in December 2022, Ofcom will make it easier for people in the UK to switch broadband providers.
All of these measures will be greatly appreciated by UK consumers, but don't hold your breath for US carriers to follow suit.
Image: Dixons Carphone