Automatic unlocking of customers’ handsets at the end of their contracts will be an expectation of mobile firms, the Government has announced today.
This announcement comes as part of the Government's Better Deal plan, setting out steps to increase competition and improve living standards. The Government will consult in 2016 on ending the practice of mobile handset locking for customers outside of any initial contract period.
Consumers face costs of up to £20 to unlock their phones, with an estimated £48 million spent every year. As part of our campaign to Unlock Better Mobile Deals, we’ve been calling for providers to unlock handsets for free.
Commenting on today’s announcement, our executive director, Richard Lloyd said:
‘Hidden charges, confusing contracts, and complicated switching are still too common in markets we all rely on. By making it easier for consumers to save time and money, these reforms are good for people, businesses and growth in the economy.’
Unlike customers on other mobile networks, Vodafone, EE and Three customers are charged one bundled price for their handset, minutes, texts and data.
Here’s what these three major mobile networks had to say in response to our research:
A spokesman for Vodafone said:
'We offer competitive pricing on both 12 and 24 month contracts which often include a handset as part of the bundle. We’re clear with our customers on when their contract ends – through customer services, their online account and the My Vodafone app.
'We also proactively contact the vast majority of pay monthly customers before their contract ends to discuss the best possible bundle for their future needs.
'At the end of the contractual period customers are able to upgrade and take a new handset or move their contract to a SIM Only plan.'
A spokesperson for EE said:
‘Separating phone and tariff doesn’t always represent the best deal for consumers and can sometimes result in them paying more. EE customers have the flexibility to choose the tariff and upfront phone cost that is right for them, often with better value than tariffs that are separated.’
A Three spokesperson told us:
‘We offer a range of plans which include a handset with different data and call allowances to suit customers’ needs. At the end of their contract, customers can upgrade to a new handset with a new plan, switch to a SIM-only plan where they pay only for airtime and not a handset or move to another operator.
‘We already unlock devices for free and we are looking at developing new contracts which will split out the cost of the handset and the airtime for customers.’
We’re calling on all mobile providers to separate out the cost of the handset so you don’t continue paying for it after your contract ends. So it’s great to hear that Three is looking to offer contracts where these costs are separate. You can help us convince Vodafone and EE to do the same by signing our petition.
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