Consumer: Watchdog wants phone-unlocking fees scrapped

Campaigners say handset unlocking fees are unfair.
Campaigners say handset unlocking fees are unfair.
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A watchdog has called on mobile phone companies to unlock handsets for free after finding that charging customers can act as a barrier to switching.

Which? has launched a campaign to help consumers “unlock better mobile deals” after a survey revealed just four in 10 trust their provider to put them on the best deal for their usage at the end of their contract, and many think it is unfair that phones are locked to one provider.

Virgin Mobile told Which? it charges £15.32 to unlock pay-as-you-go handsets, but does not charge to unlock pay-monthly phones. Tesco charges £20 within the first 12 months. O2 charges £15 for pay-as-you-go users but those with a contract can have it done for free at any time. Giffgaff and Three provide all devices unlocked.

Which? is calling on all mobile phone providers to offer the service for free at the end of a contract and at point of sale for pay-as-you-go phones.

The poll also found that many consumers were not confident when taking out their contract that it was the best tariff for them.

A poll of mobile companies by the consumer group found the majority did not contact customers proactively about the date their contract was due to end, but more than half of people said they would like to be notified.

Which? is now calling on mobile phone companies to provide customers with their contract expiry date, one month’s notice before their contract ends and details of all the available deals to best match their needs.

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