Which? Calls On Operators To Unlock Mobile Phones

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

Follow on: Google +

Which? wants consumers to have more freedom to choose a better deal for their needs

Consumer rights group Which? has called on mobile operators to proactively contact customers near the end of their contract and to automatically unlock handsets when the agreement has ended.

The organisation claims such measures would allow consumers to search for a better deal and says the current difficulty in unlocking a handset discourages people from switching operators. It has also called for pay-as-you-go phones to be sold unlocked as standard.

“Mobile phones are an essential part of daily life for many people and consumers shouldn’t be locked into contracts that do not suit their usage,” says Richard Lloyd, Which? executive director. We want to send a message to mobile phone companies that they should help customers get a better deal by alerting people that their contracts are about to end and by unlocking handsets for free.”

Phone unlocking

Slide-to-unlock-rugCurrently, mobile phone companies tend to charge users for unlocking their handset and will only do it when requested by the user. According to research from Which?, Virgin Media charges users £15.32 to unlock a pay-as-you-go mobile, Tesco charges £20 within the first 12 months and O2 charges £15 for a prepaid handset but nothing for a contract phone. Three and Giffgaff sell all of their devices unlocked.

Which? reports that 66 percent of consumers say it’s unfair that these devices are locked to a network and 77 percent say it’s frustrating that they must be unlocked to be used on a different network. The organisation says that 82 percent feel this should be done automatically.

Additionally, the majority of operators don’t contact customers when their contract is coming to an end despite 53 percent saying they would like notice.

They say this would allow them to spend more time looking for a better deal either with their current provider or with a competitor. Indeed, only 40 percent of consumers trust their operator to put them on a tariff that is suitable for their needs.

Last year, the US government stated that phone unlocking in the country should be legal and that consumers should be free to switch their devices to any mobile operator of their choice.

Are you up to speed on 4G? Try our quiz!

Read also :