The UK wireless regulator Ofcom is banning carriers from selling locked phones starting in December 2021.
Such phones can only operate on their parent network unless they are unlocked – a process that usually costs around $13 and involves a long waiting time and in some cases loss of service. About half of users who set out to unlock their phones faced difficulties.
That discourages people from switching carriers when their contract runs out, according to the regulator. Hence the ban, which “will save people time, money and effort – and help them unlock better deals,” according to Ofcom’s connectivity director Selina Chadha.
Some companies like O2, Sky, Three and Virgin already sell unlocked phones as standard. Others like EE (and parent BT), Vodafone and Tesco Mobile – have a year to make the switch.
Vodafone told BBC News that it is “ready to implement these changes when they come into force,” and BT subsidiary EE said that it will “work with Ofcom to act in accordance with its guidelines.”
While the UK’s regulator is banning the sale of locked phones, the practice is still quite common in the US when buying devices directly from carriers.
Ofcom also has plans to make switching home internet providers easier. These changes will come into effect by December 2022.