Unlocking a cell phone after the contract period has been legal for long (around half a year), thanks to the change in the law. The problem is, no carrier brought it to practice. After some hard work and greasy elbows by an industrial association, cell carriers from Wednesday are now forced to unlock phones, allowing the user to switch to other carrier.
The move follows from President Obama last year signing into law the “Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act,” which overruled a controversial 2012 decision by the library of Congress.
The debate over phone unlocking has come a long way in just a few years. For years, carriers have locked down devices, provided users stay connected to their networks only. The move was designated to keep customers close and not see them stray to other carriers.
Under the terms the carriers agreed to, a customer’s device would be unlocked if their contract period ends and their account is in good standing. Customers will be clearly notified when their devices are eligible to be unlocked if they are not ready or contract period is not over.
“Additionally your wireless provider will post on its website a clear, concise and easily found policy on mobile wireless device unlocking,” the FVV said in a blog on Wednesday. One postpaid customers, who get smartphones at a subsidy at the beginning and paying in full over the life of a contract, must have satisfied their payment to unlock their device. Thinks are much simpler for prepaid customers for the carriers have to unlock the handset in a year’s time from activation.
While the policy makes it slightly easier for customers to have more choice, it is not entirely uniform or utopian. Each carrier’s procedure for unlocking the smartphone varies.