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CU urges FCC, lawmakers to dial back rules against unlocked phones

Consumers Union Urges FCC, Lawmakers to Dial Back Rules against Unlocked Phones

WASHINGTON, DC – Consumers Union, the policy arm of Consumer Reports, added its support to the call to restore the legal protection that had permitted consumers to unlock their mobile devices for use on other wireless communications networks. In letters to the FCC and leaders of the House and Senate Commerce and Judiciary Committees, the consumer group urged regulators and lawmakers to take action, whether through legislation or through Commission rulemaking.

“Your announcement, in conjunction with the White House’s announced support for restoring this protection, and bipartisan calls in Congress to restore it, presents an important opportunity to empower consumers with greater choice in how they obtain mobile devices and wireless service,” the group writes.

The letters also call more broadly for policies to promote increased competition and greater consumer-friendly purchasing options. While consumers should have the ability to unlock their phone as they wish, the group notes that carriers requiring consumers to purchase a new mobile device as part of purchasing service on its wireless network can be just as stifling to competition and consumer choice.

The group writes, “In our view, tying these two purchases together provides no benefit to consumers.  Instead, it steers consumers into long-term service contracts that then make it difficult to switch service providers…If consumers were able to shop for the best deal on each of these purchases separately, they would benefit significantly from the lower prices, improved quality, and greater innovation and variety that healthy competition would encourage among both mobile device manufacturers and wireless service providers.”

The legal protection for unlocking had earlier been granted as a clarifying exception to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act as implemented by the Copyright Office, but the Copyright Office removed the exception last October, effective in January.

For full copies of the letters, contact David Butler or Kara Kelber at Consumers Union.