Mobile carriers in the U.S. force customers to jump through hoops to get their smartphones unlocked. That’s because the big four: AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile, don’t want to make switching away from their service as easy as popping in a new SIM card.
The same goes for our neighbors up north, who have traditionally been forced to pay a fee, usually around $50, to make their phone work on a different carrier. But that is all about to change now that Canada’s wireless regulator, the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), ordered carriers to unlock devices for free, and sell all new phones unlocked out of the box.
“The Wireless Code has helped make the wireless market more dynamic to the benefit of Canadians. While they appreciate the Code, they told us loudly and clearly that it could be more effective,” Jean-Pierre Blais, chairman of the CRTC, said in a statement. “We have listened to them. The changes and clarifications we are announcing today will give Canadians additional tools to make informed choices about their wireless services and take advantage of competitive offers in the marketplace.”
The move comes after dozens of customers blasted rules on unlocking phones after the CRTC asked for citizen comments on the country’s mobile codes.
“Carriers should not be allowed to SIM LOCK devices. If they do, for their own protection, they should be required to unlock the device at NO CHARGE,” user Jackyonge wrote in the comments, “The device lock is only a revenue grab as the consumer owes the full value through their plan or a buy out. No other industry is allowed to hold you hostage. This issue is absolutely unethical when a Customer purchases the device outright and then forced to pay a $35-70 fee to unlock the device they own. Please ban SIM locking in Canada.”
As you might have guessed, Canadian mobile carriers don’t agree with the new consumer-friendly rules.
“We think it’s a lot more appropriate that people who actually have their device unlocked bear the cost of the unlocking,” said Howard Slawner, vice-president of regulatory telecom at Rogers.
It should be noted that mobile carriers are the ones who make the software that locks phones to their network.
The new wireless rules are a small win for Canadians, who were found in a CRTC survey to pay some of the highest wireless fees of any G7 nation. The ruling goes into effect on Dec. 1 of this year.