Mobile phone firms banned from selling locked handsets

MOBILE phone firms will be banned from selling locked handsets, regulator Ofcom has confirmed.

Telecoms giants like BT, EE, Vodafone and Tesco Mobile all sell mobile phone handsets that can’t be used on other networks unless they are unlocked.

Mobile phone firms will be banned from selling locked handsets from next December


Mobile phone firms will be banned from selling locked handsets from next DecemberCredit: Getty Images – Getty

But from December 2021, the firms won’t be allowed to do so anymore following a consultation by Ofcom.

The regulator announced the plans in December last year, but has today confirmed them.

It comes after it found that a third of phone users are put off switching by locked handsets.

Unlocking your phone can be a potentially complicated process, which can also cost around £10, Ofcom said.

How to cut your mobile bill

FIRSTLY, decide if you’re happy with your current deal and whether you want a new deal or handset – or both.

If you’re outside the minimum term of your contract then you can leave penalty free – and you might be able to find a cheaper deal elsewhere.

Pay-as-you-go deals are better for people who don’t regularly use their phone, while monthly contracts usually work out cheaper for those who do.

The best way to find a new deal is by checking comparison websites, such as MoneySupermarket and, which compare tariffs and handset prices.

It’s also worth trying Billmonitor, it matches buyers to the best pay-monthly deal based on their previous three months of bills.

It only works if you’re a customer of EE, O2, Three, Vodafone or Tesco Mobile and you’ll need to log in with your online account details.

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MobilePhoneChecker has a bill monitoring feature that recommends a tariff based on your monthly usage.

If you’re happy with your provider then it might be worth using your research to haggle a better deal.

Selina Chadha, Ofcom’s Connectivity Director, said: “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.”

Ofcom today also confirmed plans to make broadband switching easier.

Currently, you can only switch automatically between BT, Sky and TalkTalk using Openreach’s copper network.

But it wants to improve the process for moving to other networks – such as Virgin Media, CityFibre, Gigaclear or Hyperoptic.

Ofcom said it’ll shortly consult on more details proposals for all broadband customers, but hasn’t yet confirmed a timeline.

Last year, Ofcom announced new rules for mobile firms to move millions of out of contract customer to cheaper SIM only deals.

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New rules which help customers switch mobile phone operators by sending just one text came into force last July.

If you’re struggling to pay your bills due to coronavirus, check out our guide on what help is available.


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