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UK to ban selling of locked mobile phones under new Ofcom rules

From next December, the regulator said mobile networks will not be able to sell handsets that can only be used on their network alone in a move designed to make switching providers easier for customers

BT Group PLC - UK to ban selling of locked mobile phones under new Ofcom rules

Mobile phone firms in the UK will be banned from selling handsets that are ‘locked’ under a range of new rules from communications regulator Ofcom.

Locked phones cannot be used on any mobile network besides the one through which it is purchased, meaning customers cannot simply switch network providers while retaining the same handset. Networks such as BT Group PLC’s (LON:BT.A) EE division, Tesco Mobile and Vodafone PLC (LON:VOD) currently sell mobile phones with this restriction. While unlocking a phone is possible, it often requires additional expense or potential loss of coverage if a customer attempts to switch without being aware that the phone is locked to a specific network.

READ: BT and Sky to show all Premier League games in October, ahead of broadcast rights battle

However, Ofcom said on Tuesday that the practice will be banned from December next year and that the change will  “allow people to move to a different network with their existing handset, hassle-free”.

“We know that lots of people can be put off from switching because their handset is locked. So we’re banning mobile companies from selling locked phones, which will save people time, money and effort – and help them unlock better deals”, said Ofcom’s connectivity director Selina Chadha.

Other measures announced by the watchdog include customers being able to receive a summary of their contract terms before signing up, as well as measures to make it easier to switch broadband internet providers.

Shares in BT were down 1.9% at 104p in mid-afternoon trading on Tuesday, while Vodafone was 2.4% lower at 107p.

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