Our lovely mobile networks have for the last 2-3 year been locking mobile phones provided by them. The “network lock” renders the mobile phone unusable when a SIM card from a different network provider is inserted. Using multiple SIM cards is especially handy when abroad because using a SIM from a local network is so much cheaper that roaming.
When you sign up for a mobile service contract (as opposed to Pay As You Go, PAYG), the network often gives you the chance to purchase a heavily subsidies phone.
I can understand that the operator wants to recuperate the cost of the phone but to keep recuperating that costs indefinitely I think is uncalled for.
There are “unofficial” methods to unlock your SonyEricsson phone but they cost, will most likely void any warranty and may in rare cases damage your phone. Nokia phone owners are more fortunate as Nokia phones can be unlocked without the need for any hardware and there are even sites that provide Nokia unlocking codes for free.
Instead I wanted to pursue a free and more civilised approach and thus decided to contact my Vodafone customer support and start arguing.
During the last 3 days I have been given several answers from Vodafone customer service:
- It cannot be done
- We do it because all other networks do it
- We have to contact the manufacturer (SonyEricsson), it will take weeks and cost you £30
- Just pop into a Vodafone shop and they will do it for you for £15
- Of course sir, your contract has expired and as such you have the full rights to your mobile phone. Here is the unlocking code
It was the customer support responsible for “Using your phone abroad” that was finally able to help. I recommend you to navigate (via the multiple choices phone system maze) to them if you are at the end of your contract and would like to reclaim your mobile phone.
Regarding the other UK operators such as T-mobile, Orange and O2 (BT) and I can only hope that they are reasonable enough.
The whole mobile phone locking reeks of anti-competitive practises that might possibly be contested with EU laws but nobody has chosen to take a mobile operator to court for those £15-£30.
Huzah, another consumer victory!
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