From December 2021 UK mobile networks will be forbidden from selling network locked mobile handsets.
Communications industry regulator Ofcom believe locked-handsets is anticompetitive, and prevents customers switching mobile providers easily.
Network providers have claimed locked handsets are a deterrent to phone theft, although Three mobile, O2, Sky mobile and Virgin mobile have already ended the practice.
Mobile providers also argue locked handsets help justify better promotional rates (blocking customers exploiting the cheapest handsets deals and then swapping networks) although consumers often claim it is an attempt to hold onto customers who would otherwise have switched provider anyway, such as after the end of their contract.
Unlocking a phone typically costs around £10, but customers must normally find a third-party provider to assist, and face a delay or technical problem during switching – which Ofcom believes is unfairly difficult.
The change to consumer law brings the UK into line with the rest of the EU, although the UK changes have been under consideration since before recent EU rulings on the mobile market.
In addition a number of other changes are planned or June 2022, including more accessibility provisions for disabled customers and greater exit-rights where contract terms change unexpectedly.
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