Communications regulator Ofcom has published a new guide to help consumers to unlock their mobile phones. With many mobile network operators locking handsets to their network when customers purchase a new phone, the unlocking procedure is necessary in order to switch to another network provider. The report reveals how many of the UK operators charge a fee for the unlocking of the device.
The Ofcom report highlights how Three is one of the few networks who does not lock handsets on any of its plans; the company introduced the strategy last December. Giffgaff are another provider that offers this service, in reaction to the report its CEO Mike Fairman released a statement: “As a community led network, we believe our members should be in control. That's why we have always let our members choose how much they want to pay for their phone upfront, the duration of their payments and what they do with the phone they buy from us. It completely makes sense to us."
the carriers EE and Vodafone lock phones on all plans. O2 locks phones on pay-as-you-go (PAYG) plans and the majority of smartphones on pay-monthly plans. In the cases of Tesco Mobile and Virgin Mobile customers, some of their handsets are locked on PAYG plans.
Major differences also exist between the operators' charging policies. Networks such as Tesco Mobile and Vodafone will issue a charge to the customer if the unlocking request comes within one year of purchasing the phone; others will always charge regardless of the period of phone ownership e.g. unlocking an EE phone will set you back £20.42 while Virgin Mobile charges £15.32.
'You can find out whether your handset is locked by asking your mobile phone provider, or by trying a different network SIM card in it,' said Ofcom in the report. 'If you get a message that indicates there is a problem and you cannot make calls, it's possible that your phone may be locked.'
Requests to unlock must be made by the 'former account holder' of the handset, it added.
Mobile contacted Three for comment on the report. Speaking on the unlocked phones policy, Danny Dixon, Three's director of customer strategy said: 'We want our customers to have the best mobile experience. Unlocked phones give consumers a choice about how they use their handset. We’d rather focus on making the services we offer attractive and useful rather than limiting what our customers can do with their phones.'
He continued, 'We’re confident in our network and want to provide the best experience to those that purchase their device from us. We feel that this gives flexibility and choice in the hands of the customer, helps the environment, and it has been very well received by consumers across the board.'