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Mobile companies now banned from selling locked handsets

Published: 5 July 2023
Last updated: 5 July 2023

Mobile phone companies are now banned from selling customers locked handsets, under new Ofcom rules that come into force today.

Some companies have still been selling mobile phones that can’t be used on other networks, unless they are unlocked. But this can be complicated for customers and cost around £10 too.

Our research shows that more than a third of people who decided against switching said having to get a handset unlocked put them off changing provider. This means they could be missing out on a better deal.

And almost half of customers who try to unlock their phone have difficulties doing so - including long delays or loss of service.

So we have brought in new rules that come into force today, and mean mobile companies are now banned from selling locked phones. This will make it easier for people to move to a different network with their existing handset, hassle-free.

Any mobile customers who want to change provider can take advantage of the simple text-to-switch process, where you can now get the code you need by simply sending a free text message.

Bundles limited to two-year contracts

Other new measures that come into force today include extending our rules that limit phone and broadband contracts to a maximum of two years, so they cover bundles. Also, if a customer adds a service to their package, providers will not be able to extend the contract periods of the existing services the customer already has without their consent.

This will help give customers more flexibility to switch package or provider, without being locked into long deals.

More support for disabled customers

We’ve also strengthened our existing requirements on phone and broadband companies to provide blind or vision impaired customers with bills and contract information in accessible formats, such as braille or large print.

We’ve extended the scope of these rules, so disabled customers can request that any important information about their service – excluding marketing materials – is provided in a format that is reasonably acceptable to meets their needs, and at no extra cost.

These rules are part of a package of changes we are introducing, to help ensure phone and broadband customers are treated fairly and they can find the best deal for them with ease.

Find out more on how to make sure you’re getting the most out of your phone and broadband services from our consumer advice pages.

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