Mobile firms to be banned from selling ‘locked’ handsets

27 October 2020

Mobile phone companies will be banned from selling ‘locked’ handsets, under a range of new rules from Ofcom that will make switching even simpler.

Some companies – including BT/EE, Tesco Mobile and Vodafone – still sell mobile phones that can’t be used on other networks unless they are unlocked. But this is a potentially complicated process which can also cost around £10. Our research shows that more than a third of people who decided against switching said this put them off.

Almost half of customers who try to unlock their phone have difficulties doing so. For example, they might experience a long delay before getting the code they need to unlock their phone; the code might not work; or they could suffer a loss of service if they did not realise their phone was locked before they tried to switch.

So, following consultation, we have confirmed that mobile companies will be banned from selling locked phones. This will allow  people to move to a different network with their existing handset, hassle-free. The new rules will come in from December 2021.

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.

Selina Chadha, Ofcom’s Connectivity Director

Further action to help customers

The ban on selling locked handsets is part of a package of measures we’re introducing, most of which reflect new European rules. This includes making switching easier and helping to make sure customers are treated fairly.

Under the new measures announced today, you will also be able to get a summary of the main terms of your contract in writing – before you sign up. This will include things like the length of the contract and prices, and broadband providers will have to tell you the minimum internet speeds you can expect from your service.

We’re also making it easier to switch between broadband networks. At the moment, customers switching between providers such as BT, Sky and TalkTalk on Openreach’s copper network can simply contact their new provider, who will manage the switch from there.

But customers moving to a different broadband network – such as Virgin Media, CityFibre, Gigaclear or Hyperoptic – need to manage the switch themselves and coordinate with both their new and existing provider to avoid a gap between the old service ending and the new one starting.

We will shortly consult on more detailed proposals for a new simpler switching process for all broadband customers.