Having a smartphone that’s locked to a certain network is a widely-accepted factor when you buy a handset on a pay monthly plan, but that could soon change thanks to new changes proposed by industry regulator Ofcom.
Major UK mobile phone providers like EE and Vodafone currently sell locked handsets as standard. In a bid to give consumers more freedom, mobile phone networks would be prohibited from selling ‘locked’ smartphones, which makes switching networks once a contract is finished easier than ever.
Currently, unlocking a handset so that it can be used on a different network requires a code and in some cases a fee of up to £10. Ofcom research shows that up to one third of consumers find this to be a difficult process.
Richard Neudegg, head of regulation at uSwitch.com, says: “This latest round of Ofcom proposals to ban the selling of locked handsets is great news for consumers. Smartphones can cost in excess of £1,000, so expecting people to fork out that sum of cash for a restricted device feels incredibly outdated.
“Changing network is getting easier and easier thanks to rules such as text-to-switch and the introduction of end-of-contract notifications coming in February next year.
“We also welcome Ofcom’s plans to improve the experience of switching broadband. As more new fibre networks start offering services to consumers, it’s vital that switching processes keep up with the increased choice. Ensuring that switches are always done automatically, and are smoothly coordinated by the new company, will help ensure that people are not put off moving to better services.
“However, the devil is in the detail and we need to see exactly how industry translates these proposed new principles into a switching system that really works for consumers.”