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UK will ban mobile carriers from selling locked handsets in 2021

Steve Dent
·Associate Editor
·1-min read

Mobile operators in the UK will be banned from selling smartphones locked to their networks, according to the regulator Ofcom (via the BBC). The rule will take effect starting in December 2021 and affect companies that still sell locked handsets, specifically EE, Tesco Mobile and Vodafone. It won’t affect O2, Sky, Three and Virgin, as those operators already only sell unlocked devices. The regular also announced that it would make it easier for customers to switch broadband providers by December of 2022.

“We know that lots of people can be put off from switching because their handset is locked,” said Ofcom connectivity director Selina Chadha. “So we’re banning mobile companies from selling locked phones, which will save people time, money and effort — and help them unlock better deals.”

Currently, it costs about £10 ($13) to unlock a smartphone, and Ofcom found that the process often doesn’t work. It also noted that some users don’t even know their phones are locked, so they lose service completely when they try to switch.

Ofcom first announced that it would ban locked smartphone in December 2019, a year after the EU added a similar measure to the European Electronic Communications Code. The UK government promised it would adhere to EU telecom rules despite the Brexit transition. Both Vodafone and EE have already responded to the Ofcom announcement, saying they’ll implement the changes once they become law.