Telecoms regulator Ofcom is to ban UK mobile network operators from selling handsets that are 'locked' to their own networks. This will take effect from December 2021.
It's part of a package of new rules
to help customers understand their contracts before they sign up and makes it easier for them to move to other networks when their minimum contract term ends.
'Locking' new phones to a particular network is favoured by some companies as it helps them enforce the minimum term of the contract, which is often associated with a subsidised purchase price for the phone. Unlocking usually has a charge associated with it and can be a confusing process for customers.
O2, Sky, Three and Virgin are among the companies that already sell unlocked devices to their customers.
Selina Chadha, Connectivity Director for Ofcom, said "We know that lots of people can be put off from switching because their handset is locked. So we’re banning mobile companies from selling locked phones, which will save people time, money and effort – and help them unlock better deals."
The other new Ofcom rules will ensure customers are given a summary of their contract in writing before they sign up, including the contract length and prices - and customers who need accessible formats because of disabilities will be able to choose communications in a format that meets their needs. They're part of the regulator's implementation of the new European Electronic Communications Code. These rules on better contract information will come into effect from June 2022.