Mobile Companies Advised to Unlock Phones
We have all been there: trying to find the mobile phone we want on the network we want for the best deal. But we often end up sacrificing one or another as these aspects because the phones are locked to a particular network. This means that is a Sim card from another network is put into the phone, it simply won’t work.
Consumer group ‘Which?’ has now said that pay-as-you-go phones should all be unlocked, and contract customers should be able to have their phones unlocked for free when they have come to the end of their contract. This is so the user will be able to find themselves the best deal, and ‘Which?’ also thinks the companies should have to tell customers what these deals are once the contract has ended.
At the moment, the only big providers that already roll out unlocked phones are Three and GiffGaff, while offering to unlock for free those phones bought before this system was introduced. Others such as Virgin and O2 charge for pay-as-you-go customers to unlock their phones, but those on contract either can be unlocked for free or are provided unlocked from the beginning, and EE and Vodafone charge both types of customer.
Which? conducted a survey of just over 2,100 people, to find out what they thought about mobile phone providers and locked phones. Two thirds of them thought that it was unfair their phone was locked to their provider’s network while 77% said they wished phones didn’t need to be unlocked to work on a different network.
More than 10% of customers were not confident they had taken the best contract out in the first place, and 42% thought that they could be on a better plan than the one they were currently on. More than half of those asked said they would like to be notified when their contract was coming to an end, while a huge 82% thought that their phone should be unlocked for free when that happens.
According to personal finance website MoneySavingExpert.com, even paying an upfront fee for unlocking a phone could quickly give the customer savings that outweigh those costs. The site also points out that unlocking a phone extends to Sim cards in foreign countries as well, so if the customer is travelling around they could avoid overseas network fees by getting a local Sim card wherever they visit. There is also the fact that unlocked phones are worth more than locked ones, so if the customer was looking to sell their phone they are likely to receive more money with the former than the latter.
“Mobile phones are an essential part of daily life for many people and consumers should not be locked into contracts that do not suit their usage,” explained Richard Lloyd, Which?’s 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.”