Friday, June 18, 2010

Canada - Bill introduced to require mobile operators to unlock handsets

[teleclick] NDP Member of Parliament, Bruce Hyer, has introduced a piece of legislation that would force Canadian cell phone carriers to offer “unlocked” devices that can be used on multiple networks.

The Cellphone Freedom Act would require carriers to inform subscribers when a phone is locked, and to unlock devices free of charge as soon as a customer’s contract expires.

“Mobile phone customers should have the freedom to choose whether they want to be locked into a company’s cell network or not,” Hyer said in a statement. “Right now, most consumers don’t even know they [can] switch to another network without throwing out their phone and buying a new one, or trying to unlock their handset at some expensive aftermarket shop.”

Hyer is correct, of course, that customers have a right to know whether their cell phones are locked. One has to wonder, however, whether forcing carriers to offer unlocked devices is either necessary or desirable.

Companies such as Apple are already addressing market demand for unlocked products, with the popular iPhone now available on a “commitment-free” basis. Forcing carriers to do the same, however, could discourage them from subsidizing new smartphones, thus putting these products out of reach of lower-income consumers.

Customers should have the freedom to buy subsidized phones, subject to whatever conditions a carrier wants to impose. If such conditions are unreasonable, there are enough wireless networks in Canada for the market to punish the offending company.

NDP Bill Would Force Carriers to Unlock Cell Phones

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