Mobile networks ditch unlocking charges

Tom Wilson
10 October 2016

Pay monthly mobile phone users will be able to unlock their handsets for free once their contract expires, under new standards agreed by UK mobile phone networks.

The move could save consumers £48 million per year, based on estimates from comparison website uSwitch. Unlocking a handset typically costs about £20.

Frequent or long-term travellers could also benefit by using a cheap local SIM card when outside the UK if their phone is unlocked.


However, the change will only benefit contract users - it does not cover pay as you go contracts.

Karen Bradley, secretary of state for culture, media and sport says: “We were clear that we wanted to see the unfair practice of charging to unlock handsets for customers scrapped and we’ve worked with all the major providers to make it happen.

“This will save consumers a substantial amount of money and make it even easier to switch provider to get a better deal."

Unlocking a mobile phone should be relatively simple and straightforward in most cases, taking between one and three days. In some instances, where a network needs to obtain an unlock code from a provider the process should take no longer than 10 working days.

As a result of the industry agreement, the Government will no longer legislate on unlocking fees, as former Chancellor George Osborne had announced in November 2015.

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